After a number of fits and starts over the past 100 or so years, 3D will finally have a major impact in 2010.
The movie studios will play a big role in fueling consumer interest, as they bring more 3D movies to a growing number of 3D-equipped theaters. The increased opportunities for exposure to 3D content are key to the wider adoption of the experience, because consumers who have seen more 3D movies are more interested than the general population in being able to view 3D content at home.
In-Stat’s consumer survey conducted in September 2009 shows that 64 percent of consumers are at least somewhat interested in 3D in the home. For those who have seen a 3D movie in the last 12 months, the percentage increases to 76. The greatest issue for 3D equipment vendors will be pricing, since those respondents interested in 3D are not willing to pay much of a premium for 3D TV sets and Blu-ray players. Surprisingly, wearing glasses is not an issue for 78 percent of respondents, so consumers seem to accept the need for glasses with 3D.
The deployment of 3D will not be directly comparable to HD since HD content was scarce in the early days. Few service providers and broadcasters offered HD channels back in 1998 or 1999, so few consumers around the country were able to receive HD content even if they had an HDTV. Around the world there was an even greater lack of HD content.
3D content will be available worldwide on Blu-ray disc, so no matter where a consumer lives, they will be able to access 3D content via a 3D TV set and 3D Blu-ray player if they are willing to buy them.
The number of 3D Blu-ray titles that will be available may be an issue. There have been about 35 3D titles released since 2005 from Hollywood studios. How many library titles will be reproduced in 3D? Certainly studios are eyeing doing so for blockbuster movies like Disney did with “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2,” both of which earned $30 million at the box office. The estimated cost to convert the films to 3D was $10 million, so the movies generated a profit at the box office even when accounting for the marketing costs. And when the movies are available on home video in 3D, even more revenue will be generated. While it won’t make financial sense to redo a studio’s entire library, we should expect to see 3D versions of “Titanic” and the “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars” series. The move to produce future live-action movies in 3D rather than only animated films will also help 3D.
3D movies will not be the only content available to encourage purchases of 3D TVs. Sony will upgrade the PS3 to enable 3D games as well as encourage game development with tools and such. The 3D games available to date were developed for the PC, which can be used with the installed base of 3D-ready DLP TVs.
Pay-TV service providers are expected to offer 3D programming over their networks as well. BSkyB of the U.K. is the first service provider to announce a 3D channel, which is expected to begin transmission in 2010. Unlike Blu-ray, the pay-TV providers 3D offerings will likely be half-resolution 3D as opposed to FullHD 3D. By using the lower resolution, they will not use as much bandwidth for transmission and will also be able to use a number of their installed base of HD set-top boxes. Therefore, they will be able to offer 3D content with a minimal investment.
Live 3D event broadcasts are expected to increase over time as costs decline. NEP Broadcasting has a truck that was developed in partnership with PACE Productions. It was used by ESPN to produce the USC at Ohio State college football telecast on Sept, 12, 2009. Due to costs, 3D football games will not be common, but 3D pay-per-view boxing events and ultimate fighting competitions may develop quickly, as they require fewer cameras. With PPV, there is also a guaranteed source of revenue aside from ad dollars and subscription fees.
Top-tier TV set manufacturers are expected to offer several 3D TV models at various screen sizes in 2010. They view 3D as a differentiator that will help them compete for market share and margin against the multitude of entry-level flat-panel TVs available today.
In-Stat expects that a year from now 3D will come with all of the high-end digital TV sets shipped in North America. Since they won’t be priced as high as the first HDTV sets were, In-Stat expects unit shipments of 3D TVs to surpass those of HDTVs each year in the introductory years. In North America, In-Stat expects 1.5 million 3D TVs to ship in 2010, with an estimated increase to 17 million in 2014. Worldwide 3D TV shipments will reach 41 million in 2014. As one of the primary sources of 3D content, 3D Blu-ray player shipments will track closely with that of 3D TVs.