New York – Two of the first manufacturers of next-gen 3D
TVs reacted with unprecedented speed last month to consumer
demand for big screen bargains as they look to dominate
the 3DTV category.
Just five months into the launch of the first 3D TV sets, and
with some market watchers estimating collective U.S. factory
sales of a little over 220,000 3D TV units, both Samsung and
Panasonic unveiled somewhat surprising new products that
lower the price of adoption for a 3D-capable set.
Samsung’s move was the most aggressive: It brought out
a 50-inch 3D plasma display with 720p resolution (instead
of the customary FullHD 1080) that is already seeing sub-
$1,000 prices at retail. The PN50C490 features 3D capability
and 1,365 by 768p resolution.
Less than six months into the launch of this new category,
the market-leading LCD TV brand that in recent years has
been known for its above average margin structure is, for now,
offering the entry price point to 3D TV in a plasma set.
The move makes sense: Recent second quarter market research
studies (see the related story on this page) showed
consumers in general stepped away from 19- through 26-inch
screen sizes in 2D models while stepping up activity in the
40- to 42-inch segment. (The 32- and 37-inch screen sizes
also continued to show growth.)
Many of those purchases were for basic bargain models,
such as 720p plasma sets and CCFL-based LCD TVs.
According to NPD sell-through activity for last year, the two
top-selling large-area flat-panel TVs were basic 50- and 42-
inch 720p plasma models from Panasonic.
Growing popularity of basic featured goods could be a
troublesome trend when trying to launch a new category of
3D TVs carrying more than a $300 premium.
Though not as aggressive as Samsung, Panasonic, which
has been a market leader in 720p plasma sets, answered last
week by launching its lower-priced GT25 FullHD 1080p 3D
plasma series. The new line consists of a 42-inch model at
$1,700 and a 50-inch model at $2,100, which both have a
number of step-up features also present in the pricier VT25
series, including VieraCast Internet content services, THX
certification and Skype video calling with an optional camera.
The GT25s are also the first to add 2D-to-3D conversion
circuitry, an option some Panasonic executives have questioned
in the past. Still, the feature offers consumers another
content option for their new 3D sets as content producers
slowly ramp up native 3D programming options.
Meanwhile, looking to help prod along consumer excitement
for 3D TV, the Consumer Electronics Association announced
its National 3D Demo Days program last month. The association
invited consumers to visit participating retail locations to
see and experience a 3D demonstration.
To underscore the growth of 3D content choice, ESPN 3D
began providing continuous 3D programming to retail outlets
across the country, and plans a slate of major events in coming
weeks, including live coverage of the Miami vs. Ohio State
football game on Sept. 11 at 3:40 p.m. EST and highlights
from the 2010 FIFA World Cup, X Games 16, and the Boise
State vs. Virginia Tech game on Sept. 6.