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3-D TV failing to catch on with consumers this year

October 13, 2010 |  6:04 pm

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3-D TV has, so far, failed to convince many consumers to reach into their wallets and plunk down cash or cards for the much-hyped depth-adding feature.

Research firm DisplaySearch forecast today in its Quarterly TV Design and Features Report that 3-D TV shipments in North America would be just under 1.6 million this year -- far below the expectations of television manufacturers who were hoping 3-D would lead to a sales surge as the conversion from over-the-air to digital TV did last year.

The hurdles to consumer uptake of the new technology include a price premium for 3-D enabled sets over standard HDTVs, a lack of movies or TV programming offered in the format and, of course, the 3-D glasses required to actually watch the popping pictures.

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

But DisplaySearch is predicting that consumer apathy toward 3-D won't last if prices fall, TV shows and movies in home 3-D get produced and the quality of the technology improves. If those factors turn around, tremendous growth could be ahead for 3-D TV sales.

The firm forecast that 3-D TV shipments could hit 90 million units in 2014 -- a huge jump from the approximately 1.6 million units making their way to retailers this year.

Based on DisplaySearch's forecast, 3-D could grow from about 2% of all flat panel TVs shipped in 2010 to about 41% in 2014. 

“North American consumers in particular appear to be playing a waiting game,” said Paul Gagnon, DisplaySearch's director of North America TV research.

“Set makers have trained consumers to expect rapid price falls for new technology, and consumers seem happy to wait a little.”

DisplaySearch also found that sales of the 3-D glasses required to watch 3-D content remain low in Western Europe, with most countries failing to sell even 1 pair of 3-D glasses for every 3-D TV set sold.

“This is particularly disappointing,” Gray said. “A healthy level would be closer to two pairs of 3-D glasses per TV, so it’s clear that these sets at best are being chosen for future-proofing, and at worst it’s an indication that consumers cannot buy a premium set without 3-D.”

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: Saleswoman Yvonne Morales helps Jack Kolkin, 85, of Palos Verdes, who's trying 3-D glasses while shopping for an HDTV at Howard Appliances, Sept. 30, 2010. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

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