The success of the 3D versions of Avatar and now Alice can have only whet the appetite of major TV set manufacturers as they ready a push into a new, untapped home market.
Panasonic begins selling a new series of 3D-enabled HDTVs at Best Buy this Wednesday. According to the Wall St Journal and other reports, the company will discount its 3D TVs as much as 50% in the US compared to Japanese pricing in order to rack up big sales quickly.
Analyst firm DisplaySearch forecasts 3D-ready TVs will grow from 0.2 million units in 2009 to 64 million units in 2018, with the first hurdle already gained: the tech specs for the Blu-ray 3D spec was recently completed.
Progress means different things to different groups in the industry, of course. Take TV set manufacturers. Sure, over the years better technology raises all their boats, but if you make widgets for a living you face a mean reality since technical and manufacturing improvements wipe out any differences among competing products. Thus the flip side of easier and cheaper production consists of living with ever thinning profit margins.
According to industry researcher DisplaySearch average selling prices for TVs in 2009 were expected to fall for the first time since the flat panel TV transition began.
So while the changeover to a new technology standard can be hazardous, it can also raise your bottom line. Building and selling 3D parallels what HDTV gear did for the industry: give reasons to raise money, invest in factories and marketing, all to slake the tech needs of a new batch of consumers who want the some of the buzz that they’ve felt from the latest and greatest movies.
So while we’re only on the cusp of the changeover to 3D in the home, expect to still hear plenty of noise about the technology over the coming months from Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, et.al. Scoring top position early on can be crucial to owning a sector of the market. Or at least that’s what tech companies have come to believe.
Here’s a quick look at some of the most recent news:
PCWorld reports that Sony will begin selling 3D TVs in Japan on June 10 and worldwide at about the same time. A PlayStation 3 firmware upgrade, meanwhile, will add 3D support to that platform.
The Financial Times describes as “ambitious” Sony’s stated target of selling 2.5 million 3D televisions in nine months starting from that June launch. This indicates how important 3D will be to the company’s bottom line, says FT.
Sony’s Mr. Ishida said they aren’t concerned by Panasonic’s head start since there is still so little 3D content available.
Jumping out quickly with new product, however, could backfire, as some standards—such as fully interchangeable 3D glasses among the various makes of 3D TVs, haven’t been set. “For the 3D TV industry, if you want fast adoption, or a nice, seamless, easy consumer experience, you want to work as hard as possible to make sure that everybody’s glasses can be used at a friend’s house,” says DisplaySearch TV analyst Paul Gagnon.
ESPN’s Innovation Lab at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, will be its hub for developing 3D technology. ESPN launches its 3D channel this summer to cover the World Cup. Sony and CBS opened a 3D research center and screening facility in Las Vegas at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino to focus on “consumer perceptions toward 3D programming”, as well as ways to deliver 3D content in and outside the home.
Ending on a more cynical note is Peter Bart in his Variety article Movie biz doing the splits. Bart sees an ever-widening gap between tentpole pics like Avatar and other expensive 3D productions—which continue to suck up more and more of the money that’s out there–and smaller, Indie fare ala Hurt Locker, Precious, and An Education, for which money and distribution keep drying up.
Considering how much of New York film and TV production fall under that latter Indie banner, that doesn’t make for a very heartening glimpse of the future, 3D or not.