Is 3D TV Dead or Just Dormant? has a piece from Daniel Kline of The Motley Fool on 3D:

Having been a major focus at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2011 and 2012, 3D TV receded in focus in 2013, and all but disappeared at the 2014 show where it was largely supplanted by 4K technology. While some signs point to the technology being dead in the water — and it’s certainly no longer the belle of the ball — it just might have a future yet.

First, the bad news

At one point 3D channels were announced (and in some cases launched) by Disney‘s  ESPN, MSG Network (a joint venture between Imax and Discovery Networks), another joint venture from Panasonic and DirectTV, and a handful of others in the United States and abroad. Though some still operate, none have taken off wildly and the prospects seem much dimmer than in 2011 or 2012. ESPN had been perhaps the largest supporter of the technology, announcing its new ESPN 3D Network in 2010 with great fanfare after what appeared to be some careful research.

In its launch press release, the company said that the new network was “the culmination of more than three years of testing 3D television.” To prepare for the launch, ESPN produced several 3D telecasts, including the Masters in April 2010. The company also developed best practices for using the technology in live game applications, which have provided the ability to streamline workflow operations, adjust 3D camera positioning, perform transmission tests, and gauge fan reaction to a 3D telecast versus a traditional telecast.

In 2013, with much less fanfare, the company shuttered the network because consumers simply weren’t watching it. The sports network told the Associated Press in June 2013 “there weren’t enough viewers to make 3D broadcasts worth it.” ESPN didn’t say exactly how many viewers it had, but the number was “extremely limited and not growing.”

According to the same article, an estimated 6% of TVs in the U.S. were able to show 3D programming in 2012, according to the most recent data from research firm IHS Screen Digest. Even homes that have 3D TVs don’t appear to be using them very much, said IHS analyst Sweta Dash.

In general, the audience for 3D TV has been so small that it’s impossible to measure. In September 2012, AP reported that “fewer than 115,000 American homes are tuned into 3D channels at any one time. That’s less than 1% of the 20.2 million-strong audience that saw television’s highest-rated show “NCIS” this week. 3D viewership is so tiny that the Nielsen Co.’s methods are unable to capture any meaningful data about viewers’ programming preferences.”

No, really, there is good news

One of 3D TVs early supporters, TV-marker Vizio, announced at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show that is was dropping support for 3D TVs.That, coupled with the much lower profile 3D TVs had at the show, has been taken by many as proof that the 3D TV is dead. The Vizio announcement, however, was a bit misleading as the company has not dropped 3D from its plans or stopped developing the technology.

“Vizio has moved away from 3D based on glasses and redirected all of its development effort on glasses-free 3D,” the company’s chief technology officer, Matt McRae told Variety. “Vizio believes consumers enjoy 3D content, but the living room is a very different environment than a movie theater.”

That is where fans of 3D can find a ray of sunshine — Vizio is not alone. Starting with models displayed at 2013’s CES, Sony made the feature a default feature in all of its TVs — meaning that you get it whether you plan to use it or not. It’ll be there if something  — perhaps the next “Avatar” — comes along to get consumers interested.

The really good news for 3D TV supporters is that while it may not have worked as a premium service to get people to pay more for TVs, it is becoming affordable and just another bonus feature. It’s now possible to buy a 40-inch 3D TV from Samsung for a little over $500,   a 50-inch model from Vizio for under $800, and a 47-inch Smart TV from LG for under $1,000.


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