3D TV Uptake Hampered By High Prices & Low HD Penetration

Jonathan Sutton

Despite almost every HDTV manufacturer jumping on the 3D TV bandwagon to sell more 3D-centric products, expert speakers at a Westminster Keynote Seminar have dampened expectations of rapid adoption of 3D technology. Titled “2020 Vision — web-enabled television, 3D and future TV tech“, the forum/seminar took place on 10 June 2010.

Robert Hannent, the chief technologist for Humax which is mostly known for making Freeview and Freesat set-top boxes and PVRs, did not paint a rosy future for 3D televisions, claiming that the technology will take 15 to 20 years before becoming mainstream. While 3D TV was undoubtedly the most actively debated topic at the forum, delegates largely agreed that the high prices of 3D displays — not to mention the added costs of related accessories necessary for the full 3D experience such as 3D glasses and 3D Blu-ray players — would diminish their appeal to mainstream consumers.

Paul Gray, who directs the European TV Research division in display market research and consulting firm DisplaySearch, chose to focus instead on the penetration (or lack thereof) of high-definition services and products. Explaining that 3DTVs are dependent on HD technology, he submitted that there needs to be a wider uptake of HDTV products and services before 3D TVs can take off.

One thing that may work in favour of 3D technology is the absence of a format war. Brian Lenz, director of Product Design and TV Product Development at BSkyB which operates the Sky 3D channel, said that any claim of impending format war is purely media hype/drama. “It is not going to be a Betamax vs VHS battle or Blu-ray and HD DVD war. There is no format war,” Mr Lenz stressed emphatically.

In addition to 3D TV, web-enabled TV sets (a.k.a. Internet TV) was another hot topic at the forum. Here experts offered a more positive outlook for Web-enabled TVs compared to 3D TVs, due to lower costs and higher availability of broadband internet. Daniel Simmons, a senior analyst in the Television and Broadcast Technology Team at media research firm Screen Digest, said that growth in Internet-ready TV is expected to hit 90% by 2014, with more and more TV manufacturers and content providers striking deals to offer internet-based services through HDTVs.