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.”
-Bolt from the blue: my Olympics photo album