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3-D television has a long road to success

After last week’s promotion of 3-D television at CES, some see the new technology as the next big thing in consumer electronics. However, even executives with a stake in the technology believe there are huge challenges ahead to make 3-D television commonplace in the home.

The key challenges are a lack of 3-D content, the higher cost and complexity of 3-D production, the fact that consumers will have to wear special glasses to see 3-D, and that millions of viewers have recently replaced their TV sets with new HDTVs.

Forrester analyst James McQuivey predicts it could take 3-D TV 10 or more years to take off, if it ever does. NSR, the marketing firm, sees a huge struggle ahead for 3-D in North America and Western Europe.

“3-D will have to overcome the ‘glasses’ barrier, the ‘content’ barrier as well as the slightly higher price point in an environment where few are willing to spend as easily as they were a decade ago,” said an NSR report. “The impact on subscribers for DTH operators, therefore, will be realized only in the long term if these challenges are overcome.”

CES means that efforts to market and sell 3-D have begun. Dozens of 3-D TVs and Blu-ray players will go on sale this year. Broadcasters ESPN, Discovery and BSkyB have all announced plans to roll out 3-D channels this year, and Hollywood studios have promised new and classic titles in 3-D.

But little is known about whether consumers will buy and wear special glasses to watch a few television programs and movies at home. 3-D television not requiring the special glasses is still years away.

Forrester’s McQuivey wrote on his blog that most people who love sports, movies and gaming — the content most suitable for 3-D — have just bought large HDTVs.

“Now we’re going to ask those same people to spend between $2000 and $4000 to get a good 3-D TV set with just two sets of active shutter glasses? Sorry, the credit card is going to stay in the wallet for this one,” he wrote.