Despite the buzz around UltraHD and 4K TV models being the Next Big Thing in home entertainment, 3D TV is still plugging along as a TV set differentiator. Chalk it up to content, content, content: as the DVD and Blu-Ray release of Ang Lee’s stunning Life of Pi demonstrates, consumers are finding fresh incentives to embrace those silly-looking glasses.
Life of Pi, just out on disc, is arguably the first film since Avatar to be entirely written and storyboarded with 3D viewing in mind. The lush visuals take 3D past the gimmick level and into an immersive zone that is part and parcel of understanding the core of the movie.
Eric Pfeiffer at Yahoo! News duly reported that 3D sales of the film are making a “strong debut” (actual numbers are forthcoming), coming in as the No. 8 best-selling home movie release on Amazon. Preorders for the upcoming 3D Blu-Ray release of the Hobbit—another film that gains much from 3D viewing—has made it the No. 1 top-selling movie for the e-tailer.
It goes to show that if the content is there—and worth putting on special gear to experience—then 3D will fare very well in the home over time.
On the content generation side, studios are embracing 3D more than ever before. The next Star Trek iteration, due in May, will be 3D, while classics like Jurassic Park are getting a 3D retrofit for a fresh box office release.
Other library content is a target for 3D translation as well: FOX is converting a host of films – like I, Robot – to Blu-Ray 3D.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, other recent home releases are seeing strong sales of 3D units as well. For instance, last fall’s release of the 3D edition of Titanic had a 37 percent 3D unit share, accounting for 45 percent of all Blu-Ray sales of the title. Disney’s (News - Alert) The Avengers, meanwhile, saw 23 percent of its unit sales come from the 3D version in its first week of release.
And, Prometheus, in its launch late last year, generated a quarter of its unit sales from the 3D version in its first week in stores, according to Nielsen VideoScan.
“Since 76 percent of Prometheus sales were of a Blu-Ray configuration, that means 33 percent of Prometheus Blu-Ray shoppers opted for the 3D edition – a collector’s set that included the film on Blu-Ray 3D, regular Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital copy (iTunes and UltraViolet),” THR pointed out.
Pay-TV operators are doing their part as well to generate demand. Google Fiber TV, the search giant’s IPTV (News - Alert) implementation in Kansas City, has added two channels – 3net and ESPN3D – the first foray into 3D for the carrier. 3net is a round-the-clock 3D TV network from Sony, Discovery and IMAX, while ESPN3D is the sports network’s experiment in immersive fandom.
“We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again — we’re committed to making these qualities that you’ve come to expect from Google (News - Alert) Fiber TV better and better,” said Larry Yang, head of product management at Google, in a blog. “And, thanks to the amazing capacity of Fiber, we can also include some new experiences and tools that will make watching TV even cooler. For example, 3D channels.”
Subscribers to the Gigabit + TV plan will automatically get 3net, which features a library of original 3D programming, including natural history, documentary, action/adventure, kids and family, lifestyle and cuisine, concerts, movies, scripted series and others.
ESPN3D, a 24/7 3D sports network, is available through Google Fiber for $5 per month with a Gigabit + TV plan.
Comcast (News - Alert), meanwhile, is tapping 3net as well. Xfinity TV customers will have access to three hours of 3D content, available at least five days per week. The content mix includes original 3D television series and specials in a variety of genres. Some 3net programs will also find their way to the Xfinity On Demand service.
New content from the 3net channel service will premiere on Xfinity 3D each Monday at 7 p.m. ET.
"With 3D televisions already in nearly 25 million U.S. households — and industry predictions of dramatic in-home 3D growth in 2013 — [the deals] solidify our ongoing commitment to meeting the ever-growing consumer appetite for high quality, original 3D television content," said Tom Cosgrove, president and CEO at 3net.
Indeed, that’s the other leg of the 3D business model: an install base of compatible TVs. Data from a NPD DisplaySearch survey shows a definite uptick in 3D TV sales. In the fourth quarter of 2012, 25.7 percent of global LCD TV panel shipments were 3D, up significantly from 14.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.
The firm expects the 3D display market to grow to 226 million units and $67 billion in revenue in 2019 worldwide, up from just 50.8 million units and $13.2 billion in revenue in 2011. 3D TVs contribute heavily to this projection and create the largest revenue stream with anticipated growth from 25 million units in 2011 to approximately 180 million units in 2019.
“Despite some industry sentiment that the 3D bubble has burst, we expect 3D to continue to grow across several categories including TVs, portable devices and public displays,” noted Jennifer Colegrove, vice president of emerging display technologies at NPD DisplaySearch. “In 2008, the 3D display market was under 1 million units and $902 million in revenue. By 2011, it had increased to nearly 51 million units and more than $13 billion in revenue. This is a trend we expect to continue.”
“People love 3D,” said veteran industry observer Tom Adams, senior principal analyst with U.S. Media, speaking to THR. “It’s not surprising to me. Household penetration has gotten fairly substantial, fairly quickly, and of course if you’ve got one, you’re going to want to purchase content for it.”
Edited by Braden Becker