Manufacturers Lower 3D TV Prices

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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.

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