As debate stirs about the ultimate popularity of 3D TV, DirecTV CFO Patrick Doyle said he believes it will remain a "niche product" and the province of early adopters for some time.
Doyle did say that DirecTV, which is offering four 3D channels, does not have convincing data about how many of its customers are tuning in, which could provide some insight into consumer uptake.
One reason: DirecTV offers its 3D package for free, so it can't simply count how many subscribers call in to place an order. AT&T U-verse charges $10 a month for its channel suite, so it likely has a better sense of usage.
Doyle did not indicate whether DirecTV would seek to cull viewing data -- or has -- for its 3D channels from set-top boxes. Many upscale DirecTV customers who are rabid sports fans and movie aficionados would fit a profile of early adopters purchasing the fledgling 3D TVs -- and funky glasses -- even before an expected holiday push from manufacturers.
At an investor event Wednesday, Doyle said the satellite company remains "encouraged" that 3D films continue to perform well in theaters. "Clearly, there's a demand there. How much of that will transition over to a TV experience versus a movie theater experience will be seen," he said.
AT&T said Wednesday it is making available six IMAX films available to its 3D-paying customers. One will be free to all comers who have 3D-capable sets and proper hookup via VOD. IMAX is a part-owner with Sony and Discovery of a coming 3D channel.
One of DirecTV's 3D channels features films. There is also an on-demand offering -- a feed with original programming and ESPN 3D.
"Whatever that adoption curve is for 3D, we feel good that from a technology standpoint, we're well-prepared to take advantage of whatever that opportunity is," Doyle said.
With so many Americans now receiving HD channels, which came about in a relatively short time frame, there have been suggestions that 3D TV will experience a similar streak. But Doyle said he has doubts. HD was a product benefiting from a somewhat natural transition in the analog-to-digital shifting.
"[3D] is going to probably be more of -- at least for a while -- more of a niche product. It's going to be a product that some people will certainly gravitate to and the early adopters will," he said.