Sony Open to be aired live in 3-D

HONOLULU -- Sony Corp. announced Tuesday it has extended title sponsorship of the Sony Open in Hawaii by three years through 2014 and will broadcast the PGA Tour event in January live in 3-D.

The upcoming tournament will be the first PGA Tour co-sponsored event televised live in 3-D, said company and tour officials who have been testing the technology at several events this year. The Masters was aired in 3-D.

"We have seen what high-definition does for golf telecasts, and 3-D is the logical next step to enhancing our broadcasts and providing fans with the ultimate viewing experience, particularly in such a beautiful setting as Hawaii," PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement.

Sony estimated 83 million households in the U.S. have 3-D-compatible TV sets. And demand is growing fast.

Electronics and entertainment companies around the world are banking on 3-D to fuel a new boom in TV, movies and games. Most 3-D TVs on the market today rely on bulky glasses to rapidly deliver separate images to each eye, which creates a sense of three-dimensional depth.

Besides having special cameras, offering the Sony in 3-D requires significant costs including having a separate crew and TV announcer, editing truck and transmission.

"So it's going to be a completely separate program," said Sony Hawaii General Manager Kay Aoki. "It would not double the cost because we have areas that could be shared, but it would be additional."

The Sony's 3-D coverage will be produced and distributed to U.S. households by The Golf Channel and Comcast, and be made available to international broadcaster partners that have the technology. Last year, the tournament was televised in more than 220 countries and territories.

Sony, which has a four-decade history in Hawaii, took over as the title sponsor of the tournament in 1999 from United Airlines. The company did not disclose financial details of the three-year extension but said the purse is expected to continue going up by about 5 percent annually. This year's purse was $5.5 million.

Naobumi Nomura, president of Sony Hawaii, said when times were good, the company was "rich," and gave back to the community.

"The last few years, we are a little poor, but we're still continuing our contributions," he said.

Since Sony's involvement, the tournament has raised more than $10 million for Friends of Hawaii Charities, which provides funds to nonprofit groups in support of needy women, children and elderly.

The Sony Open is the first full-field event on the PGA Tour's calendar. It will be played Jan. 13-16 at the scenic Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.