3-D global sales off to a slow start

The numbers are starting to trickle in, and perhaps it’s no surprise: 3-D sales globally have gotten off to a slow start. To be fair, only a few vendors offered 3-D sets in the first weeks of sales, with major vendors like Sony just beginning to offer 3-D sets as of last month.

3-D TV and stand-alone Blu-ray player sales in the United States have exceeded $55 million in the first three months since the launch of these products in February, according to the NPD Group, a market research company.

While that number may sound big, it represents only a tiny fraction of total TV sales in the United States. Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis at NPD, said 3-D sales are expected to remain small throughout 2010.

One hurdle to widespread adoption of 3-D TV in U.S. homes is the need to wear special glasses when watching 3-D TV. These glasses can add significant cost and work only with their brand of TV. Only 10 percent of consumers surveyed in NPD’s poll cited “looking silly” as a main concern of the glasses, whereas 41 percent cited not having enough glasses on hand for everyone watching the set.

“Many consumers have already shown that they are willing to use special glasses to obtain the effects, but want to preserve the social aspect of group television viewing,” Rubin said.

Globally, only one in eight 3-D set owners will actually watch 3-D programming this year. A report by Informa Telecoms & Media indicated that by the end of 2010, there will be 845,000 households globally with a 3-D TV, but only 101,000 (less than 12 percent) will be watching 3-D material.

The report also suggests that by 2016, there will be 70 million 3-D TV households worldwide. But even then, less than a third will be watching 3-D TV on a regular basis.

Retail analysts GfK said 25,000 3-D-enabled TVs were sold in Europe through the end of May. That number was dwarfed by the predicted 252 million TV sets to be sold worldwide this year.

Perhaps one reason for the slow sales is there is still little to watch in 3-D thus far. In the UK, only one Blu-ray 3-D disc is available, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.”