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 am in agreement with your sentiment about 3-D TV, Bert.
The defining moment for me was when I was sitting in a conference in Yokohama several years ago. One Japanese engineer stood up and asked the panel (largely consisted of TV manufacturers like Panasonic and Sony, and a couple of broadcasters): "I don't know about you, but I watch TV while I have supper. Do you expect me to wear glasses while I eat?"
When I heard that, I said to myself, "Say, no more."
"TV was stuck at a stage analogous to that of AM radio (limited to a pitiful 3-4 KHz audio bandwidth by the RF spectrum allocation rules)."
That might be confusing. I was talking about AM radio being limited to 3-4 KHz, not TV. Was just trying to draw an analogy
Although in fact, network TV audio WAS similarly limited, until the mid 1970s, to just about 5 KHz. The NTSC and some of the PAL standards didn't limit it, but the network feeds did.
I am one of those who was begging for TV to get past the bronze age, way, way back in the 1970s. TV was stuck at a stage analogous to that of AM radio (limited to a pitiful 3-4 KHz audio bandwidth by the RF spectrum allocation rules). TV didn't get out of the antedeluvian standards until the 1990s, with the advent of the digital standards.
So HDTV was a long time coming, and cleverly designed to use the same spectrum slices as analog TV, only a lot more efficiently. The Olympics in HD are fabulous. All you have to do is see the footage from Olymics several years back, to see how abysmal it was then.
On the other had, I have never seen a single example of consumer demand for 3DTV. At first, I only saw articles on EE Times about it, and the entire push seemed to come from the supply side. You go to stores, and it's always been pretty clear that few are interested. My bet is, any 3D sales are misleading, because the 3D feature is simply a standard item in the larger and more expensive sets.
One problem is the glasses. Another problem is the potential for queasiness (especially among people who don't wear glasses). Another problem is the spectrum needed by all of the existing 3DTV standards, although at least in principle there are more clever ways of transmitting 3D. But the existing options out there are very wasteful, UNLIKE what HDTV managed to do.
Just because a lot of kiddie movies come out in 3D, and people seem to enjoy that occasionally, does not mean that people want it as a steady diet.
UHDTV is somewhat similar, certainly with respect to bandwidth usage. And it's also not really all that beneficial for TV sets of, say, 55" or less.
I hear what you're saying.
But of course, there were many people in the past who claimed, "who needs HDTV?" And a few decades later, they are enjoying the fruit of the labor.
8K will be, as the EBU guy says in the video, the technology for our kids.
You're surprised by this? I'm surprised anybody sells 3-D TV sets that require glasses. You know, maybe they should give us football helmets to wear containing those 24 channels of audio properly positioned on our head too.
Of course, in most of the swim meets, gymnasiums, or events where a British athlete is participating, you can't hear the commentator over all the screaming and background noise. They could save the bandwidth and jam pink noise audio in at the box on my curb.
I really like what NBC did by packaging the best of American interests into prime time. And I appreciate most Internet outlets' and bloggers' warning of spoiler alerts if they reveal live results.
Just because technology allows 8K resolution (if price is no object) doesn't mean people want it, even with good programming. People are spending far more money on cell phones and tablets to watch small screens. Broadcast isn't dying, but the last thing I need is to see hillbilly TV or the Kardashians in 8K 3-D. I might watch Bruce Jenner as a decathlon-ian, but then what?
Oh, yeah, my cable box reset itself again last night in the middle of watching Olympics. The fundamentals are still failing us some times.
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