Page last updated at 10:46 GMT, Friday, 8 January 2010

3D TV is being billed as possible industry saviour

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Las Vegas

Stuff Magazine's Simon Osborne-Walker tries out 3D TV

3D TV is being billed as a possible saviour for recession hit manufacturers looking to boost sales.

On the opening day of the Consumer Electronics Show, CES, in Las Vegas, all the big names unveiled 3D TVs.

Industry experts said the picture looks promising with a survey showing around 3.4m 3D TV sets will be sold in the US this year.

"It's a challenging market. We need something to kick us out of this," said Panasonic's Elsuke Tsuyuzaki.

"To me, the thing that's going to get us there is 3D," added the firm's chief technology officer.

"2009 is a year none of us want to repeat," said Gary Shapiro the president of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) which hosts the annual tech gathering.

The association has predicted that for the coming year the whole consumer electronics industry should eke out a slight revenue increase of 0.3%. The rise of $440m (£280m) will take expected revenues to $165.3bn (£105bn)

However Mr Shapiro noted that lower average selling prices for TVs will be a drag. CEA expects TV revenues to decline 2% in this sector to $22.1bn (£14bn) even though unit sales will go up 5% to 37.7m (£24m)

Movie boost

Jeffrey Katzenberg, head of Dreamworks Animation
CES is full of 3D evangelists

For several years the industry has talked up the arrival of 3D TV in the home to little effect.

Many however believe 2010 really is the breakthrough year for the technology, helped in large party by the growing number of 3D movies at the theatre and the success of James Cameron's sci-fi epic Avatar.

"While 3D has taken a number of years to penetrate in the movie theatres, I believe this is the year it will begin to enter the home," Jeffrey Katzenberg, the head of Dreamworks Animation told BBC News.

However he added a caveat to that statement.

"It usually takes from five to ten years to transition from one platform to a newer one. To go from analogue to digital has taken about ten years so that is why I say to you this is the year in which 3D is going to enter the home in a really meaningful way."

Mr Katzenberg, who is known as a 3D evangelist, said he is so confident about the future of that vision that he has committed his studio to make 3D versions of all its future movies.

During CES, he announced Dreamworks would release Monsters vs. Aliens as a 3D Blu-ray disc in an exclusive promotion with Samsung and Technicolour.

In 2010 around 20 out of 170 movies will be made in 3D, double the number from last year.

Industry play

Everywhere you walk, promotions scream out at you. You are left in no doubt that the TV-makers are backing this to the hilt.
Maggie Shiels

Samsung is just one of the big TV makers betting a huge chunk of the bank on 3D being a winning proposition for consumers and for the company.

It, along with the other top names such as Sony, LG and Panasonic, put on ritzy displays at CES to show the hundred thousand plus attendees what the future holds.

There were also announcements galore.

The Discovery Channel said that it is forming a joint venture company with Sony and IMAX to deliver 3D TV channels.

UK satellite operator BSkyB said it is also planning to launch a 3D service later this year and ESPN said it will show at least 85 sports events this year on its new ESPN 3D channel.

Panasonic revealed a tie-up with top US satellite provider DirecTV to launch three high-definition 3D TV channels by June to try and jump-start demand for 3D TVs and content.

"Once you see it you get it," said Panasonic's Mr Tsuyuzaki during a CES session on the issue called "3D Hope or Hype."

"It will take off a lot more quickly than a lot of people expect."

Price point

That is certainly what the Consumer Electronics Association said it was told by those it surveyed on the issue.

"One of the key findings is that we don't need to convince consumers that 3D is different," said Shawn DuBravac, the CEA's chief economist.

"This is the struggle we had with HDTV (high-definition TV.) 25% of consumers say they will own a 3D TV over the next three years. By 2013, a quarter of all sets sold will be 3D," added Mr DuBravac.

Right price

"3D is gaining a ton of momentum unlike any other technology in recent history," said Buzz Hayes, senior vice-president of Sony's 3D tech centre.

"The market is ready for it and a lot of people are embracing it."

One important factor the industry has to get right is pricing.

"The TV industry is desperate and they are latching onto 3D as hard as they can" Gartner research's principal analyst Van Baker told BBC News.

"They have done the flat panel upgrade. It will be a hard sell to get people to spend big bucks again on 3D TV so soon after paying out for an HDTV."

Those in the business agree it is an important consideration.

"I think all the CE (consumer electronics) companies are waiting to see what the others do (on pricing)," said Ahmad Ouri, chief marketing office of Technicolor.

"It can't be double the price tag, or it's a non-starter."

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