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Cable Technology Feature Article

June 25, 2012

Do Americans Really Want 3D Programming?

By Jacqueline Lee, Contributing Writer

Sales of 3D television sets seem to be growing rapidly in the United States. According to NPD Group (News - Alert), sales of 3D televisions accounted for 11 percent of all flat-panel TV sales in the first quarter of 2012. That’s double the rate of last year’s same-quarter sales.

Getting Americans to actually watch 3D programming, though, is another story altogether.

DirecTV (News - Alert) will reportedly be cutting back its n3D channel due to a lack of 3D content. The channel, which opened to great fanfare in 2010 on the heels of the 3D success of the film Avatar, was backed by Panasonic (News - Alert) and featured a 24-hour slate of 3D programming.

Unfortunately, DirecTV found itself running the same programming on a continuous loop because of the scarcity of new content. Although n3D will still feature programming like “Guitar Center Sessions” and will air Olympics coverage in 3D, the channel will not operate around the clock.

AT&T’s (News - Alert) U-verse made a similar move last year when they dropped ESPN 3D from its lineup. The carrier blamed low demand from customers and suggested the cost of the programming wasn’t justified.

Most customers cite cost as the largest obstacle to 3D adoption, according to NPD Group. To access n3D, for example, customers need a 3D television set, an HD receiver and a monthly subscription to HD programming from DirecTV.

Also, 3D glasses are prohibitively expensive, with active units starting at about $150 per pair.

Portable 3D systems like Nintendo’s 3DS gaming system are becoming more popular thanks to price cuts, as well as the fact that they don’t require players to wear 3D glasses. In film, 3D continues to be attractive to audiences; hits like The Avengers and

Prometheus both featured showings in 3D this spring.

Until customer demand catches up with the technology, don’t expect to see too many more channels featuring 3D programming in the near future. NPD reported that of customers who intended to purchase flat-panel TVs in the next six months, only 14 percent said 3D was an essential feature.

“This summer, manufacturers and content providers can leverage large scale events like the Olympics in London and the Euro 2012 soccer tournament by televising and marketing 3D technology,” said Ben Arnold, NPD Group’s director of industry analysis. “Our research suggests ownership of 3D TV doesn’t necessarily mean consumers have adopted the technology.  Getting owners to put on glasses and watch content is the real measure of 3D’s success.”

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Edited by Braden Becker

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