Much more worrying is that there is little evidence of U.S. consumers being motivated to go out and buy a new 3-D TV. It certainly didn’t happen in the past three months, leading up to the Olympics, and it probably won’t happen after the Olympics.
The shares of 3-D TV units -- among all types of flat-panels sold in the United States in the last quarter only rose by two percentage points, from 9 percent in Q2, 2011 to 11 percent, according to Ben Arnold, director of industry analysis for The NPD Group, a market research firm based in Port Washington , NY.
Panasonic made efforts to let consumers know that as an Olympic sponsor, the Japanese company is providing all the necessary 3-D technologies and equipment during London 2012. Despite that, “3-D hasn’t been super-visible,” observed Arnold. He doesn’t see the Olympics helping generate more 3-D TV sales in the future, either. “I don’t anticipate a big bump.”
Consumers are at best lukewarm to 3-D TV, said Arnold, due to such known hurdles as their having to put on 3-D glasses and getting only limited access to 3-D content. When asked if NPD knows how many 3-D TV owners actually bother to put on 3-D glasses to watch their TVs, Arnold answered no. With 3-D TV ownership on the U.S. market at only 5 percent, there aren’t “robust enough samples” that allow the research firm to do a meaningful survey, he explained.
Timing is everything
The most unfortunate thing of all, though, is its timing.
Be it 3-D TV, 4K or 8K, the new broadcast technologies are emerging at a time when flat-panel TV sales had already stopped growing. According to NPD, overall flat-panel sales in the United States during Q2 this year declined by one percent in terms of units. Sales dropped by 9 percent in value, compared to a year ago.
The real kicker is that consumers’ viewing habits have drastically changed – just in the past four years.
More people are demanding to watch content on any device at any time at any place. Nobody should be surprised at the harsh attacks that hit NBC when the broadcaster delayed coverage of some marquee events for prime-time broadcast. That was to be expected.
London 2012 is probably the first Olympics where multi-screen viewing has become the norm among many consumers.
“Digital output, online and on mobile phones, is likely to exceed traditional TV footage for the first time at London, registering more than 100,000 hours of coverage,” said IOC officials earlier this week. This is despite TV coverage exceeding that of Beijing 2008 by more than 40,000 hours, at 100,000 hours.
Further, more than 1 billion page views have been recorded so far on the NBC website, with more videos having been streamed in the U.S., than for the entire Beijing Games, according to a Reuter’s report.
But despite all this, it’s far too early to call the death of broadcasting. NBC managed to make the London Games popular by tape-delaying events for the U.S. audience, maximizing viewers and advertising dollars. NBC reportedly had its best ever audience for an opening ceremony, nearly 41 million viewers, beating that of the last summer home Games in Atlanta in 1996.
And when all of you come back to the Consumer Electronics Show next January, you will be guaranteed to see London Olympics’ opening ceremony all over again in UHDTV; and you can’t help but say, “wow.”
I would predict that 3D will gain some followers when it enables something that is not otherwise possible. The first time that 3D imaging makes it possible to understand how someone won when they appeared to have lost or it enables the creation of a virtual reality from the player's viewpoint that was otherwise impossible to achieve, there will be interest in the technology. As it is, the technology adds cost and technical baggage without a quantum step of payback to the consumer.
That sounds much better than the experience I've had with NBC in the United States. I did use my iPad and HDTV to watch the game simultaneously, but coordinating the two (looking for deeper information while watching the game, for example) was an arduous task.
I mostly watched different sports on two screens as two separate experiences.
I vouch for that. I found the BBC IPlayer service a joy to use: All live and past events at your fingertip with a rich set of search and customisation capabilities and supporting information e.g. you could be watching a boxing bout and you want to know more about the boxers involved, you just click on the side and ooops, the boxers' bios are shown. Marvellous!
PS. I hear all content will remain online until early next year! It's free to access for people living in the UK (well, we pay for it through our licence fee!). Folks outside the UK can subscribe for a (small) fee.
"..I have never seen a single example of consumer demand for 3DTV."
Let me give you a single example - myself. I'm sure I an mot the only one.
I have been a still stereo photographer for many years, using film.
I have been following digital stereo technology technology since I saw a Tektronix stereo monitor with LC shutter glasses some 20 years ago.
I have yet to purchase a stereo digicam or monitor or TV because current offerings are either too expensive or not good enough or not standard enough. And I am still looking for software to convert my stereo film photos to compatible stereo digital files and continue my still stereo photography in digital form.
That is, I have a strong consumer demand, but there is a lack of satisfactory supply.
As to the glasses issue, I have checked out the 3D TVs that do not require glasses, and the image quality is just not good enough. I demand excellent image quality, and AFAIK LC shutter glasses is the only way to get it. I am willing to wear glasses to get good image quality.
As to resolution, I love my HDTV, both cable and broadcast. It is so much much better than SDTV. As screen sizes increase there is an argument for a higher resolution. Given the cost/benefit trade-off, I would prefer 4K (8 MPix) for consumer use, and leave 8K (32MPix) for movie theaters.
As a first order of magnitude estimate, you can assume that 20/20 human vision is capable of resolving detail down to approximately 1 or 1 1/2 minutes of arc. This first order estimate suggests that HDTV screens are "good enough" if viewed at approximately a distance of three picture heights.
So for most living rooms, and even relatively large sets, 1080p ain't half bad. However, that is a first order estimate, and the human eye-brain system can get exceedingly clever about detail perception. So I'll grant that there might yet be something cool about UHDTV in homes.
Yes, I'm well aware how stereo vision or audio work.
This is the scheme I'm referring to:
I watched some Olympic events here in the UK both in UHDTV and 3D and I have to say that I was blown away!! It was as if I were right by the athletes' side, simply stunning!
Although UHDTV with passive 3D was not bad at all, Active 3D was a much better experience to me. I believe this technology will catch on in the near future.
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