To Be or Not to Be... in 3D

CYBERSPACE: Depending on who’s asked, 3DTV is either the greatest thing since sliced bread or a resounding yawn. Newly minted 3D network executives are in the sliced-bread camp. Folks who make up the audience are yawning.

Tom Cosgrove is of the former, hoping to see 30 to 40 3DTV channels launch in the next five years. Cosgrove is president and CEO of the 3DTV channel project in progress from Sony, Discovery and IMAX. The net is set to launch next year. His comments were reported from the CTAM Summit in New Orleans. He allowed 3DTV is in the “early-adopter phase,” and that not everyone was on board.

Among the underwhelmed, around 13,500 folks queried in a recent Zagat Survey had no interest in “having 3D technology at home.” These indifferentees comprised 65 percent of movie-goers surveyed by Zagat. They were okey-dokey with the format for film--54 percent liked it “occasionally.” Just 9 percent wished for more content.

Zagat surveyed 20,773 people about favorite films, mediums and formats. “The Godfather,” “The Godfather Part II,” “Casablanca,” and “Schindler’s List” rounded out the top four. Virtually none of the top 20 were 3D films, though “Star Wars” at No. 7 is getting the 3D treatment for a 2012 theatrical re-release.

As for 3DTV, several surveys and common sense have demonstrated that cost and glasses are primary barriers to adoption. More than half of U.S. TV households now have HDTVs, many of them purchased within the last five years. The expense of adopting a relatively immature technology that’s tethered to the need for specialized glasses is not particularly attractive, especially during a recession.

“While TV manufacturers have bold plans and a lot of new products, consumers remain cautious,” DisplaySearch’s Paul Gray said recently. “Consumers have been told that 3DTV is the future, but there still remains a huge price jump and little 3D content to watch.” 

Market analysts expect between 1.6 million and 2.1 million 3DTVs to ship in North America this year--less than 2 percent of the total number of U.S. TV households. The estimates don’t represent purchases. BSkyB, which launched a 3DTV service Oct. 1, expects to have between nearly 2 and 7 percent uptake within a year.
-- Deborah D. McAdams