Viewers say no to 3-D

A story in last week’s Broadcast Engineering "3-D Technology Update" e-newsletter reviewed new research on the popularity of the technology with viewers. May I summarize? No thank you to 3-D.

Despite the launch or pending launch of new 3-D satellite and cable channels, viewers are pushing back on the adoption of 3-D television. New research from Deloitte reveals three key reasons for American consumers' hesitance to buy 3-D for their home theaters.

First, viewers absolutely hate having to wear 3-D glasses. In fact, this may prove to be the death knell for the technology. People are accustomed to being able to multitask while watching television. A viewer may be viewing a TV program while doing household chores, working on a computer, using a cell phone, even reading. The requirement for 3-D glasses prevents those things from being easy to do. In today’s society where everybody expects to be able to do more than one thing at the same time, the requirement to wear glasses represent a huge obstacle for 3-D proponents to overcome.

A second reason viewers are not adopting 3-D technology is the higher cost of the television sets. A check of my local newspaper ads show that 3-D TV sets cost about a 15 percent more than an equivalent-sized HDTV set. That may not seem like much, but if someone has recently purchased an HDTV set, the benefits versus cost ratio is low. The Deloitte survey showed that 60 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t pay more for 3-D capability. Twenty-one percent said they would pay a premium of around 10 percent. As my anecdotal check shows, that may be insufficient to buy a new 3-D TV set.

Another factor is the high penetration of newer HDTV sets. The consumer electronics industry has practically pounded people over the head to buy new HDTV sets. According to the CEA, more than 31.5 million flat-panel HDTV sets were sold last year alone. One result is that HDTV penetration in U.S. households is 63 percent; a Nielsen study puts the penetration at 54.2 percent. Getting these folks to replace that still-working set with another $2500 for the latest television gizmo will be challenging.

The real knockout for in-the-home 3-D concerns content. In the Deloitte survey, one-quarter of participants claiming to have seen 3-D content remain unimpressed. Only 9 percent of the sample had seen 3-D TV firsthand in the last six months. Seven percent of the respondents said they had purchased 3-D content for the home. Given that there are only about one-half-dozen 3-D titles, readily available, and half of those come with the purchase of a 3-D TV set, that’s not saying much.

A survey of UK viewers showed an even more negative attitude about buying a 3-D television set. The report, which polled 4199 Britons and was conducted by YouGov for Deloitte, found that only 89 respondents were likely to spend money on a 3-D-enabled TV set over the coming year. I’ll save you the math. That represents only 2 percent of viewers who claim they’d buy a 3-D TV.

Another important factor from the U.S. Deloitte survey was the age of those most enthusiastic about 3-D TV. Forty percent of those from age 14 to 27 said they would buy a 3-D TV set that required glasses, while 55 percent said they would buy one that did not require glasses. You may recall there are no large-format, nonglasses 3-D television sets yet for sale.

Unfortunately for set makers, this age group represents a demographic unlikely to have full-time jobs, so purchasing a new 3-D TV set may not really be a possibility. Unless mom and dad buy it for them, these folks will have to be content with a visit the local cinema for their next 3-D fix.