Fast Company

Retailers Push 3-D TVs on Uninterested Consumers

3-D TV

Avatar ushered in the modern era of 3-D everything on the big screen (piranhas! toys! jackasses!). And consumers responded in a big way--box office ticket sales jumped on the strength of 3-D-driven price increases. But how's that technology working out on smaller screens? Recent sales info from one of the biggest TV retailers suggests that it isn't--so far.

Best Buy just reported a bigger than expected drop in its third-quarter net income, which bumped its share value downwards by over 15%. The reasons are explained by Best Buy as a blend of lost sales to competition (for low price TVs and laptops) and lower than expected sales of high-end TV sets. In particular, the kind of high-margin profits associated with expensive 3-D TVs and Net-enabled TVs just haven't been rolling in. And this is because consumers simply aren't buying them at the rate that the big box vendor was expecting.

Why is this? NPD researched TV buying habits and found that consumers are buying more TVs--sales were up 2% from January through November of this year over last--but revenues fell 8%, meaning folks are buying cheaper sets. This is probably because the majority of people have now adopted the high-definition TV revolution, and have forked over hundreds of dollars for their main flat-screen TV sometime in the last five years. Now that LCD TV prices have tumbled so far, these same people are considering buying smaller, cheaper sets for other rooms in their homes.

The other problem with 3-D TV is that while content is available, it's not freely available--3-D movies and TV shows arrive via some Blu-ray machines, and over some cable channels, but they're not ubiquitous, and in the case of Blu-ray, they require you to buy particular hardware that may be expensive. This is exemplified by Panasonics' perhaps too-greedy stance on the Avatar 3-D Blu-ray movie, which it is holding as a Panasonic exclusive until 2012, meaning you have to buy very specific hardware if you want to watch that blockbuster in all its 3-D glory.

Add in the need to buy 3-D glasses in many cases (extra pairs if you want more than a couple of members of your family to watch at once, or more attractive ones if you don't find the stock versions very comfortable) which can cost hundreds of dollars--$225 if you must have Gucci!--and the price of viewing 3-D content, even when it's available, is prohibitive.

Then there's Net TV. It's complex, there are a large number of players, and integrated Net TV sets tend to be more expensive than their dumber counterparts because of all the additional electronics inside. When faced with a comparison decision between two TVs, already a matter confused by a plethora of specifications to compare, and one has Net and costs more, whereas the other doesn't but costs less...then which choice will many people make?

Google's TV system, meanwhile, is promising, and powerful, but its complexity is excessive--a fact that's ably demonstrated by Sony's crazy controller for Google TV.

To read more news on this, and similar stuff, keep up with my updates by following me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

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