3D Soldiers On

Carl Weinschenk

It's important to watch what is happening in the world of 3D television for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it can be a tremendous user of bandwidth. And, if it succeeds, it likely will filter down to the corporate level and become a potent corporate communications tool.

3D television has so far been disappointing, however. It was all the rage in 2010. For instance, it dominated the The Cable Show 2010, the industry's annual convention that was held in Los Angeles. Something strange happened on the way to being a smash, however: The wheels largely fell off the 3D train.

There was pushback from customers who didn't relish the idea of wearing glasses to watch television. Many cable operators decided that the bandwidth requirements were too great based on expected ROI. Television sets were slow to be released. Finally, more exciting services - mostly, anything with the word "mobile" or "Apple" in front of it - took over. Even cable operators, not known for anything other than traditional television delivery, looked at the competitive landscape and decided that multi-screen technology was a wave of the future they couldn't ignore.

The latest predictions from DisplaySearch are middling, according to a report in 3D Roundabout:

In the latest DisplaySearch Quarterly Advanced Global TV Shipment and Forecast Report, the total global TV shipment outlook for 2011 has been reduced by about 3% to 252 million units, as demand in many developed countries continues to be very soft. TV shipments in North America are only expected to grow about 2% this year after 4% growth in 2010, while Western European TV shipments will fall about 1.5%.

It's not all bad news, however. Indeed, 3D seems to be making something of a comeback. Strategy Analytics released a report this week that said that 11.5 percent of survey respondents plan to buy a 3D set during the next year and that they plan to spend 56 percent more on them than on a high-definition set.

Another sign that the "D" in 3D does not stand for "dead" or "discontinued" is that the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), the keeper of broadcast standards in the United States, is working on the technology. The goals are not to keep 3D from being a bandwidth hog and to not require new sets:

When completed, the standard will be backwardly compatible to work with existing receivers and will allow 3D content to be delivered over one ATSC terrestrial channel to fixed and mobile receivers, with delivery of both views (left and right eye) in real-time.

In a story posted last week, Variety painted a picture of 3D - through the experience of ESPN 3D - that portrays it as struggling, but by no means done. The bottom line is that 3D, which at one point seemed to be the next really big thing, likely will survive. But it likely will never reach the heights of its predecessor, high-definition television.

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