Best Buy has indicated that sales of 3D TVs aren't exactly moving at warp speed. Will Toshiba change things with its new model that could make viewing a 3D channel as simple as viewing any other network?
While cost and consumer confusion appear to have hindered 3D TV sales so far, another factor seems to be those space-age glasses required to check out an ESPN 3D or other programming.
Toshiba thinks it can eliminate that issue. This week, it is starting to sell 3D TVs in Japan that don't require the glasses; those sets could be at Best Buy sometime next year.
This technology appears to be way ahead of schedule, as the Sonys and Samsungs are just getting their feet wet, spending a fortune marketing the sets with the special specs required.
But for the Toshiba models -- various screen sizes are coming -- the chance of success looks promising. If the price is right and it's time to buy a new TV, why not do it?
Meanwhile, as the manufacturers battle to win over customers making that first 3D TV purchase, some distributors of 3D programming are better positioned than others to capitalize over the long term. At least two -- AT&T U-verse and Time Warner Cable -- are smartly charging customers to get channels like ESPN 3D.
These companies have apparently learned from the Internet. Start by giving something away for free, and it's hard to place the genie back in the bottle. But kick off with a toll booth, and it's a lot easier to go in the other direction and allow people to pass through gratis.
Comcast and DirecTV (which also has its own 24/7 3D network) are offering 3D for free. This would seem to leave them with little wiggle room. Perhaps they're banking on free 3D to attract customers. But the 3D consumer base is likely to be passionate and probably upscale -- not likely to make a decision based on an extra $120 a year or so.
Verizon FiOS will launch ESPN 3D next year, but has made no announcement on whether it will be free or have a cost attached.
On the programming front, also coming next year is a 3D channel from Discovery, IMAX and Sony. Operators will probably use the same free or pay strategies for it they have respectively used for ESPN 3D. (Distributors offer 3D films for a price on demand.)
Also intriguing to watch is how widespread 3D advertising gets. Philips is running a spot that creatively plugs a Norelco 3D razor, which also appears in traditional broadcasts, presumably helping the company save money on production costs, which is a major hurdle.
But movie studios figure to be the most interested in advertising in this format. They can produce a spot in 3D that can run in a theater before a 3D flick -- and then repurpose that spot on a 3D channel.
But all the talk focusing on 3D TV sets, programming and advertising, seems a bit inside baseball -- heavy among industry types, but light with the general public. Where's the buzz? Toshiba, by getting rid of the silly glasses hurdle, might unleash some.