CES: 3D TV biz still growing, but content lags

Episodic shows in the format could quicken pace

With the heavy push for 4K UHD televisions at the Consumer Electronics Show this week, 3D is getting about as much buzz as the Macarena in the age of Gangnam Style.

But 3D TV and mobile are showing signs of growth and are actually somewhat ahead of the adoption rates of HD at the same time from introduction.

Still, technology providers and content creators alike complain that more programming is absolutely necessary for 3D to reach the expected inflection point in the “hockey stick” curve that the electronics biz watches closely.

Tom Cosgrove, president and CEO of 3Net and 3Net Studios, told Variety that about one-fifth of U.S. homes now have a 3D TV and the sale of 3D Blu-rays were up 100% year-on-year.

“We’re seeing more and more acceptance of what we’re doing. We’re optimistic, particularly about what we’ve seen in the last six months,” he said.

The exec cited a CEA study showing that 45% of consumers who have a 3D TV watch five or more hours of 3D programming a week, and 10% watch 15 or more hours weekly. Around 25% don’t have 3D glasses and a similar figure watch no 3D TV. “That’s about starting a pattern of regular viewing,” Cosgrove said. “That’s what we need and that’s what we’ve started to see.”

While 3D could never live up to the “hype cycle” of the last few years at CES, “If you recall the early days of HD TV sets, people weren’t watching HD,” Cosgrove said. “If you compare where we are in 3D with that timeline, we’re way ahead of it. The acceptance curve is going up very quickly, it’s just not going up as quickly as we had hoped.”

Cosgrove’s wish list: “More content available to consumers and more consumers knowing content is available.

“I’d love to see another channel come up. More competition means more acceptance of 3D, more people looking for things to watch and getting into that regular viewing cycle.”

At the “3D’s 20/20 Vision” panel at the Intl. 3D Society/3D Consortium’s conference at CES, there were repeated complaints about the dearth of 3D content outside theaters.

IHS analyst Tom Morrod reported that $8 billion of the $350 billion total worldwide spending on media consumption is directly attributable to 3D.

“Feature film is really driving all this (3D),” Morrod said. “Cinema is the vast majority of consumer spending on 3D.”

His figures also showed adoption of 3D TV ahead of HD at the same time from introduction, but still several years away from any expected inflection point.

Meanwhile, others on the panel complained about the dearth of compelling content. “One of the big problems is the availability of high-quality 3D content you didn’t just see in theaters, and having more content in the home at the same quality as theatrical releases,” said StereoD president William Sherak.

“Things are slow in the U.S.,” said 3ality Technica CEO Steve Schklair. “There are a few viable networks that are producing a lot of content, but there’s not enough live content yet.” Schklair said that before 3D TV gets traction, regular episodic shows will have to be in 3D.

Xpand CEO Maria Costeira said that international markets are much stronger, but Xpand has also widened its focus to education, medical and simulation markets.