It wasn’t all that long ago that 3D was going to be the savior of the television industry. In 2010, when the standard for 3D on Blu-ray was more-or-less established, many people took it as a given that 3D was going to be big. That, combined with commercial success of 3D Avatar in the theaters was a sign that all the pieces were falling into place.
At the 2011 CES, you couldn’t take a step without tripping over a 3D display. Sure there were competing glasses technologies, the prospect of glasses-free and the decaying economy, but no one really expected the public to treat 3D as if it had a bad case of halitosis. Yet here we are, in the middle of new TV season (Spring is typically when the major manufactures ship their new products) and every manufacturer I meet with only wants to talk to me about streaming services, apps or some wacky new control features (for the record, I like streaming services, apps and wacky control features).
What’s clear to me is that while TV makers aren’t exactly breaking up with 3D, they’re not heading to the honeymoon anytime soon.
Now I’m sure someone’s going to read this and point out that this year a much larger percent of every major TV maker’s sets will do 3D. So then doesn’t that show they’re fully behind 3D? Well, sort of. 3D is becoming just another feature, but not really the important one anymore. Look at the advertising and messaging from the manufacturers—it’s smart first, 3D second. Oh, and picture quality.
So what happened to the 3D love affair? Aside from the factors noted earlier, I hold broadcasters and movie studios responsible. 3D Blu-ray releases have been weak. The majority of the new 3D releases have been aimed at kids or teenagers, and they don’t buy TVs. The upcoming theatrical release of Titanic in 3D is another big yawn. Rather than put the work into producing something new, Paramount is instead taking an old title and running it through the 3D conversion blender. That’s the best they can do?
And what about 3D broadcasts? In the last 12 months there has been no significant increase in the amount of 3D being offered over cable networks. Sure there are VOD selections, which differ from supplier to supplier, but other than that there’s very little available on a regular basis.
In the networks’ defense, most people, once exposed to it, don’t want to watch 3D supplied by their cable companies. 3D content delivered over cable has been compressed and down-res’d to the point that looks worse than the 2D HD counterparts. If you’re watching it through a passive 3D TV, the result is even worse. So once people try it, they don’t go back.
So, back the question: have manufactures given up on 3D? Yes and no. Yes, in that it’s no longer the big push and the feature that will make someone buy a new TV. No, in that they’re still making more 3D TVs and will likely continue, but they’ve come to the conclusion that there are other features more important to buyers.
Now when will we see a remote you can talk to, and that talks back? Siri TV?
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.