As 3D TV struggles to gain buyers of 3D sets and audiences for 3DTV content, not even the Olympics will boost business with industry exponents forced to play a long game. But it seems that all the negative hype might not be completely true. Adrian Pennington reports.
It’s been two years since the world’s first 3DTV channels launched in a blaze of publicity but the industry has not managed to translate its enthusiasm for the format to consumers in high enough numbers, prompting many advocates to reign in their expectations of it ever going mainstream.
There’s no single reason for the trough that 3DTV finds itself in, and no one factor that will put it out, but there’s one thing that even the most pessimistic analyst would agree on: 3D is not going to go away.
Take the Sky 3D channel, which launched in the UK in October 2010, but seems stalled on a base of 250,000 Sky subscribers.
BSkyB prides itself on pioneering new technology, it has invested heavily in production equipment, primarily OB facilities for live 3D sports, and has always described its 3D activity as core to attracting consumers to the brand rather than a profit centre in its own right.
“Growth in 3D has been pretty much as expected,” says chief operating officer Mike Darcey. “Take-up is linked closely to the sale of 3DTV sets which in turn is linked to the cycle of TV replacement which has slowed due to the economy. An improved consumer environment will help and will be progressed further as prices come down and as glasses-free displays emerge.”
Another high-profile entrant, Discovery Communications, has no imminent plans in Europe to replicate 3Net, its 3D channel co-run with Sony and Imax in the US, but emphasises it isn’t leaving the game either.
“3DTV set sales are not going as fast as HD did and the biggest hurdle is the need to wear glasses, but autostereo displays will come,” says John Honeycutt, EVP and COO, DNI. “We’ve learned a lot about how to produce in 3D and to tell a story in 2D as well as 3D in a way that drives down cost.
We’ve confirmed that if consumers have an opportunity to watch content that is closer to reality they will migrate toward that. So as the market develops we are right there and ready to go.”
His boss, the chief executive officer of DNI, Mark Hollinger, confirms the company is “still very bullish” about 3D and that “the exact trajectory will be unpredictable but our investment horizon is long term. The consumer platform for strong 3D business is getting established.”
The leading market in terms of both 3DTV sales and household penetration is the US, where penetration will reach 4% this year, from an installed base of over 4.5 million (according to Futuresource Consulting statistics). This will grow significantly so that by 2015 close to half (47%) of US households will own a 3DTV.
Such trending is being echoed in the major markets across Europe. In the UK, approximately 800,000 (3%) households will own a 3DTV by the end of 2012 and by 2016 the forecast is for a 20.2 million installed base.
Many consumers purchase the 3D function by default and sometimes are even unaware at the time of purchase - one of the key reasons behind the growth in 3D capable households.
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