3DTV – Hype versus Reality

January 18, 2011 |  by

3D GlassesWith the introduction of 3D TVs in early 2010, TV manufacturers hyped the new technology with the hope of stimulating consumer demand.  Yet annual sales of 3D-capable TV sets were lukewarm at best.  It is estimated that 3.4 million 3D sets were sold worldwide in 2010, accounting for just 1.2% of the total worldwide flat-panel TV shipments.(1)  Samsung Electronics estimates 1 million 3D sets were sold in the US in 2010, abysmally short of the 3 million to 4 million the company initially forecast. Fewer than 1% of US households have a 3D-capable HDTV, while 61% have at least one high def TV set.(2)  Mass-market consumers were put off by the heavy glasses, big price tag, and lack of decent content.

But the major players still see depth. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, practically every HDTV manufacturer announced that 3D is a big deal for them in 2011. A slew of new product offerings is aimed at shutting down the skeptics and naysayers.

  • New technology glasses. TV manufacturers like LG Electronics and Vizio, among others, introduced light polarized 3D glasses, called passive glasses.  But they only work with LCD TVs that have an extra layer to the screen. Panasonic is sticking to active glasses, which are bulky, pricey ($150 a pop) glasses that produce a 3D image by using LCD lenses to rapidly dim one lens, then the other, so your eyes see slightly different images. Further out, Toshiba has developed an “autostereoscopic” consumer 3D TV, which requires no headgear. But the sets are considerably more expensive compared to glasses-based 3D TV and require that viewers sit fairly still – tough in a home environment.
  • Aggressive pricing.  For most of 2010, you couldn’t buy a 3D TV for less than $1300 for a 40-inch set. Between the set and the glasses, consumers were looking at spending $600 more for a 3D set than a comparable 2D-only set.  In 2011, Panasonic, Vizio, Sony, LG, and Samsung all are releasing 3D TVs at many price points. Even a bargain-basement consumer will have no problem buying a new 3D TV.
  • More content. TV manufacturers and broadcasters are ramping up their 3D content. The 3D network joint venture of Discovery Communications, Sony and IMAX announced “3net”, a 24-hour 3D channel set to debut in early 2011. HBO is launching its 3D video-on-demand service with Comcast and Verizon’s FiOS TV among its takers.  Sony and two TV broadcasters are introducing Japan’s first 3D drama series.

The 3D TV market penetration rate is forecast to grow from 5% of total flat panel TVs in 2010 to 37% in 2014.(3) Buying a 3D HDTV set-up today is an expensive and potentially risky proposition.  Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, said there was still much consumer confusion surrounding 3D TV.  What will it take to sell the next wave on 3D?

(1,3) DisplaySearch; (2)Leichtman Research Group


1 Comment


  1. I agree there has been a great deal of confusion over 3D TV. But, let us not forget that it is a added capability and these TV sets can show 3D content. The price point should not be a issue and is to be expected. When we go back to the launch of the first flat panel TVs, they were much more expensive than box TVs. Today all TV are flat panel. This is how I see 3D TVs going, eventually all TVs will have the ability to show 3D content, just as most TV today are HD ready.

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