Sales Increase, But 3DTV Excitement Lags

Consumers continue to buy 3DTVs, but not at levels that would be considered a blockbuster rate, and they’re certainly not clamoring for the feature. 

According to The NPD Group, 3DTV unit sales increased 74% and revenues increased 64% in the first quarter of 2012 compared with the same period last year. They accounted for 11% of all flat-panel TV sales during the quarter -- double the amount from the same period in 2011 -- and were 22% of all large-screen purchases in the U.S.

Still, 3D capability is only a secondary feature in the minds of consumers. According to NPD, only 14% of consumers who were interested in or expected to purchase a television in the next six months said 3D capability was a “must have” feature. More than two-thirds (68%) said it was a nice feature they may use in the future.

“It’s just not really getting the reception from consumers,” Ben Arnold, director of industry analysis at NPD, tells Marketing Daily. “It’s playing well at retail. People who have done a demo are coming away with a positive impression, but we’re not seeing that translate into a reason for buying a 3D TV.”

The biggest hurdles continue to be the cost and uncomfortable nature of 3D glasses, and especially the lack of (or lack of awareness of) 3D content, Arnold says. 

“You have to give consumers a reason to watch stuff, but you have to make it easy for them to find 3D content,” he says. “If there’s closer marketing with big content plays, that’s something that can really be interesting to consumers.”

Sports fans and gamers could be key to generating excitement around the market in the future. More high-profile sporting events, such as the Olympics or Super Bowl broadcast in 3D (and marketed in a way so that consumers would be aware the programming is available), or a “killer title” in the gaming space could generate excitement the way HDTV did in its early days, Arnold says. 

“I think there are a lot of lessons that can be taken from HD,” he says. “If one of the game makers really commits to a line of games in 3D, I think that can grow some interest.”

The question is whether anyone might be willing to make a large investment in 3D technology at this point. “In a sense, the cat’s out of the bag that consumers are tepid on 3D,” Arnold says. “In terms of future investment, I’m a little skeptical where people might see that.”

All hope is not lost, however. Sales are increasing, and there could be a day when the capability reaches enough saturation that significant investment from content producers and distributors would be worthwhile. “We could get to a point where the installed base of 3D is massive, and we discover all of a sudden that 30% of households have 3D TVs because 70% of the sets sold had the capability,” Arnold says. “That may make it more palatable.”

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