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Broadcasters key to provide 3D content, educate consumers

3D broadcasters will play a key role in offering much needed content and in educating consumers about the technology. 3D for the home continues to gain traction in key markets, with nearly 15 million US homes forecast to own a 3DTV by the end of next year, according to a new Home 3D Tracker report from Futuresource Consulting.

3DTV emerged early in 2010 amidst a wave of publicity, with manufacturers quickly engaging in a battle for market supremacy. As a result of this, the price premium for the 3D feature has already reduced quite sharply and the well known-brands are now incorporating 3D in more and more of their TV and BD model ranges.

The year finished on a positive note for manufacturers, with strong sales during the final quarter, says Futuresource. However, 3D content was unable to keep pace with consumers’ expectations, as studios agreed hardware/content bundling deals with CE manufacturers, creating a lack of packaged 3D content at retail.

“Limited retail content availability has placed greater importance on the role of the broadcast segment as a key 3D content source,” says Fiona Hoy, Market Analyst, Futuresource Consulting. “Although early broadcast services struggled to provide the breadth and quality of viewing material that this nascent technology requires, many CE manufacturers have now formed partnerships with pay-TV operators to help co-fund and produce original 3D content. Many of these partnerships will last up to three years, by which time the market will have become more established.”

Collaborations have included Cyfra (Poland) and LG for 3D sports; NTV-Plus (Russia) and Panasonic; Sky (UK), LG and Panasonic; and DirecTV and Panasonic (USA). By the end of 2010, 31 3D pay-TV services were available throughout Europe, with 18 linear/demo channels and 13 VoD services. Across North America, 11 3D services have been launched, with two 24/7 channels and six separate VoD services.

The analysts believe broadcast will continue to play an important role, not only in providing 3D content directly into the home, but also in educating the consumer and driving awareness. The Sky 3D launch in the UK made a impact on consumer awareness and helped drive equipment sales, with 3DTV sales picking up noticeably following the launch of the channel.

“In addition, 3D disc title sales are expected to see a significant boost this year,” says Hoy, “with a strong release slate which includes key franchises Harry Potter and Transformers. Although 3D represented less than 1% of total US Blu-ray retail sales during 2010, this is expected to reach nearly 25% by 2015.”

The need for 3D glasses continues to be a key talking point within the industry, with the high cost and weight of glasses and the premature hype around glasses-free (auto-stereoscopic) 3DTV said to be potential obstacles to market development.

“Futuresource research continues to indicate that auto-stereoscopic technology is still many years away from offering the quality and large screen viewing experience demanded by the consumer and at an affordable price point,” says Jim Bottoms, Director and Co-founder, Futuresource Consulting. “Several key technical issues still remain: a highly restricted viewing angle and a limited number of viewing points or ‘sweet spots’ are among the primary challenges. Outside the sweet spot, the viewer sees either no 3D effect or, worse still, a reverse image which is highly uncomfortable to watch.

Although 12-inch and 20-inch glasses-free 3DTVs are now available in Japan, designed primarily to work for a single viewer, a large screen watched by more than one person may need to display up to 100 unique views, each of which must be created separately, the analyst reckons. Even when the TV technology is in place, the production issues for live action content are still likely to be a major hurdle, as creating content for these multi-view displays requires multiple cameras and a different production/broadcast infrastructure.

Story filed 07.03.11

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