Prince William's Fans May View Royal Wedding Through Murdoch 3-D Glasses

When Prince William and Kate Middleton exchange vows in Westminster Abbey on April 29, some royal watchers may be tearing up from behind 3-D glasses.

British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc, controlled by Rupert Murdoch, is negotiating with royal officials to show the wedding on television. The talks, which involve the British Broadcasting Corp., also include shooting the event in 3-D and transmitting it to cinemas, two people familiar with the matter said. Test shots have been taken inside the church and a broadcast rights announcement may come in weeks, one of them said, declining to be identified because the talks are private.

The 3-D plan may draw interest from cinema chains around the world, with Cineworld Group Plc and Vue Entertainment Ltd. lining up to screen the event in the U.K. The government has declared the wedding day a public holiday, cleared pubs to stay open until 1 a.m. and said it will allow road closures so people can hold street parties to celebrate.

“Royal weddings like this only happen every 30 to 50 years,” Vue Entertainment Chief Executive Officer Tim Richards said in an interview. “It’s a major event and will have huge demand globally.” Vue has about 700 movie screens.

The engagement of William -- son of Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales -- was announced on Nov. 16. William, 28 and second in line to the throne, has been dating Middleton, 29, since 2003.

1981 Spectacle

It isn’t clear if broadcasters will have to pay to show the wedding, a state event.

The cost of rights for popular events can be high. FIFA, soccer’s governing body, took in $1.9 billion from the sale of World Cup TV rights last year. Networks paid more than $5 million for rights to show events surrounding President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Monaco is asking about 400,000 euros ($532,400) for the July nuptials of Prince Albert and Charlene Wittstock, French magazine Le Point said last month.

The marriage of Prince Charles and Diana before 3,500 guests at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1981 attracted a global TV audience of 750 million, making it the most popular program ever broadcast, according to the BBC.

Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953 coronation gave many people an excuse to buy their first TV sets. A three-dimensional broadcast of the April wedding may boost the sale of 3-D sets.

Prince Charles’s website says Prince William and Kate Middleton will travel in a glass carriage from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace, where the queen will host a reception followed by a private dinner and dancing.

3-D Push

“There would be real demand for the wedding in 3-D but only if it’s the full ceremony, including scenes before and the carriage procession,” Rupert Gavin, chief executive officer at Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group, the U.K.’s largest cinema chain.

Movie theatres have benefited from the explosion of 3-D screenings -- and their higher ticket prices -- and by showing live events such as the Metropolitan Opera, the soccer World Cup and concerts by the Black Eyed Peas and U2.

Blockbuster films “Avatar,” “Tron: Legacy” and “Toy Story 3” prompted cinemas to outfit screens with digital equipment, which also lets them stream live content.

Non-movie content, while still only single-digit revenue for many cinema owners, totalled 200 million pounds ($318 million) globally in 2010 compared with 30 billion pounds of total revenue at the box office, said David Hancock, head of the cinema market at researcher Screen Digest in London.

‘Everything Around’

“What works best is the screening of events with restricted access like concerts or opera or an event with a competitive edge like the Olympics,” he said. He doubts the royal wedding will generate enough demand to fill cinemas.

Once broadcast rights for the wedding are agreed on, the filming and transmission of footage can be arranged quickly, Vue’s Richards said, since satellite dishes are already in place around the globe.

Other details include whether there will be live filming before and after the wedding and whether behind-the-scenes shots will be allowed, as well as admission fees for cinemas, he said. A corporate sponsor could make the event free to the public, like the Royal Bank of Scotland’s sponsorship of live Rugby World Cup transmissions in cinemas last year.

Cinemas would negotiate with the winner of the rights to stream the event, paying a percentage of the admission fee, said Stephen Wiener, chief executive officer at Cineworld, which has more than 780 movie screens in the U.K.

“Demand depends on the event; that’s the draw,” he said. “With the royal wedding, we’d definitely show it in cinemas. And not just the wedding but everything around it.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Kristen Schweizer in London at kschweizer1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root at vroot@bloomberg.net.

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