Rarely has an emerging consumer technology divided opinion so forcefully as 3DTV. Commentators seem to feel obliged to take an extreme position: either this is the first step in a major home entertainment revolution; or it’s a unnecessary, if not outright dangerous, innovation imposed on unwilling television viewers. Some industry players, particularly TV manufacturers, have certainly been guilty of excessive hype in talking up 3D; and some observers seem to latch on to every slight sign of weakness as evidence of impending market collapse.

The truth, inevitably, lies somewhere in the middle, and is therefore less likely to grab headlines. The complexity of the picture probably explains why we don’t hear much about this side of the story. The fact is that people are buying 3DTVs, although not in great numbers, yet. And according to more than 200 3DTV owners across the US and Europe in our recent survey many of these people are watching shows in 3D and enjoying the experience, although a minority are less happy with what they have seen. There is certainly a general desire to improve on various aspects of 3DTV as it stands today, such as availability of content and glasses issues.

Indeed, the biggest concern with 3DTV owners is, not surprisingly, the need to wear glasses. An overwhelming majority of respondents agreed that they would watch a lot more shows in 3D if they did not have to wear special 3D glasses. However, this is not stopping them watching 3DTV altogether: more than two thirds of 3DTV owners are watching 3D programming at least once a week, and 41% are watching on a daily basis. Given the relative paucity of available programming in 3D, this is a relatively positive finding, although it may also reflect the fact that nearly half of 3DTV owners are making use of the TV’s in-built 2D-3D conversion feature.

There is a mixed picture when it comes to the overall 3DTV experience as well: most 3DTV owners agree that the quality of the 3DTV experience overall has been very good. But most people also agree that watching too many shows in 3D makes them feel sick. So it seems that 3DTV is likely to remain an occasional activity for most viewers until the technology matures.

As we have reported previously, a third of homes will own a 3D-ready TV by 2014. The evidence from our latest research suggests that actually watching shows in 3D is likely to become a regular activity for at least a half of those homes, and that’s assuming content availability and quality at today’s levels. Sceptics should remember that the 3DTV market is still at the beginning of a long development curve: and the industry needs to keep working to address the many challenges which lie ahead.

David Mercer

Client Reading: 3DTVs: Buying Intentions and Early Adopter Feedback