The Chicken and Egg of 3DTVs

May 19, 2011

12:00 pm

The mass consumer market is now in the latter stages of their TV upgrade cycle to HD, but now 3D content is on the horizon and will require consumers to pony up for a snazzy new TV capable of displaying 3D programming.  With ESPN and Discovery launching 3D channels over the past year, content is starting to move beyond the movie screen and into the living room.

However, for those with 3DTVs, they are certainly under-whelmed with the breadth of content that is currently available.  Fox Sports came out and mentioned during this year’s Super Bowl that it didn’t make economical sense for them to deliver a 3D broadcast.  So it appears there is a chicken and egg problem going on in the market.

In some ways, the content providers may have good reason to wait.  With 3D capabilities now embedded in sub-$1500 TV sets, consumers may start spending the extra $200 for a 3D-capable set to protect their investment if and when 3D content is more widely available.  So from a content providers perspective, it may pay to wait it out until there is a naturally grown installed base of 3D sets in the home in order to justify the high content production costs.

3D gaming is currently the killer-app, driving much of the 3DTV sales.  With Nintendo’s recent launch of the 3DS, you are also starting to see glasses-free 3D technology in smaller screen devices.  As mobile TV with similarly small screens becomes more available, consumers may grow accustomed to glasses-free 3D content and actually hold-off on 3DTVs until glasses-free technology is built into those sets.  The development of passive glasses is the current iteration of the technology, and it will likely be 5+ years before we conceivably see glasses-free 3DTVs with acceptable picture quality.

I am curious to see how broadcast production will change going forward.  3D content hopefully will not simply be a 3D version of 2D content.  Currently, the best 3D effects we see are simply scenes with an occasional object flying at you. With HDTV, it was sports that turned out to be the killer content driving the upgrade cycle.  With 3D, it could come down to who creates the most unique experience with the technology.

Sports content certainly has the advantage again.  However, 3D sports content will need to be filmed differently to leverage 3D technology and really create a new type of viewing experience for the consumer.  You can imagine an Ump Cam, so you can see what the batter sees and really understand how impossible it must be to hit a major league curve ball.  You want to feel immersed in the game, which let’s face it, is the point of 3D and why everyone gets excited about 3D content.

Of course, this would hike up production costs considerably, so there would need to be an ROI built around this.  But from a consumer’s perspective, I need to have a different experience to warrant upgrading to a 3DTV or continually wearing those hideous glasses.

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Anuj Agrawal (@anujagra) is a digital media enthusiast in the DC area, with a passion for understanding what makes consumers tick. From the fundamentals of designing products that are engaging to understanding the psychology of the buying process, he has helped companies develop innovative consumer experiences.

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