Manufacturers betting big on 3D TVs

Samsung Electronics Canada was the first manufacturer out of the gates for selling 3D TVs to Canadians, emphasizing the sets’ non-3D capabilities in a bid to woo budget-strapped consumers.

In a Toronto Future Shop store, crowds slapped on 3D glasses and stared at large flat-panel LED screens displaying 3D content.

Samsung was selling a package that included a 55″ 3D TV, a 3D capable Blu-Ray Player, two sets of 3D glasses and a Monsters vs. Aliens 3D movie for more than $5,000. In coming weeks, Panasonic and Sony TV sets will sell 3D TV sets at electronics stores across the country.

Consumers are ready to move their HD TV sets from the living room to the bedroom and upgrade to 3D, said Robert Gumiela, director of marketing consumer electronics at Samsung.

And don’t wait for 3D TV without glasses — it’s a long way off.

“This will be beyond a niche market,” Gumiela says. “It’s not just a 3D television. It’s a portal into your entertainment system for the home.”

The sets will upconvert 2D content to 3D, or just display 2D content normally. They also support features such as Wi-Fi connectivity and Internet streaming — good selling points in an entertainment landscape currently bereft of much 3D content.

There are many unanswered questions about 3D TV before consumers will rush to adopt it, says Richard Grunberg, a professor studying 3D TV at Ryerson University.

“To what extent are people willing to put up with the glasses they have to wear? How much content would they be able to, or want to watch continuously?” he asks. “It will certainly have a market, I don’t know what percentage of the market.”

Samsung is releasing three LED sets in 40, 46 and 55- inch sizes that run at 240 Hz and 1080p resolution. LED is the most expensive screen type currently on the market. Samsung will release LCD 3D screens in another couple of months and Plasma screens in three weeks. The least expensive screen will be a 46-inch LCD screen for about $1,900.

The glasses needed for viewing will cost $249.99 a pair for adult size, and $229.99 for child size. New HDMI cables will also be required for 3D content.

The 3D content bonanza is coming, says Richard Bicknell, vice-president of marketing at Universal Studios Home Entertainment Canada. There were about 20 3D movies in theatres last year and just as many this year.

Now that theatre experience can be duplicated at home, he says. But Universal Studios doesn’t have a 3D content game plan at the moment. They will be decide on a project-by-project basis when 3D is appropriate.

“Right now, we have one film scheduled for summer of 2010,” Bicknell says. “Beyond that, nothing has really been confirmed. This is really our first foray into the medium.”

HDTV may have been a more natural evolution for consumers to understand. Higher resolution means better quality and it works without the need for any face gear. 3D TV that requires an expensive pair of shades could be a harder sell, Grunberg says. Consumers may want to enjoy 3D for special occasions, but not on an everyday basis.

“I don’t think it’s in people’s mindsets, and frankly I don’t think its in their comfort zone yet,” he says. “The glasses, and the motion and the 3D effect do still cause some discomfort.”

Grunberg plans to study these questions for more definitive answers.

Will 3D TV save sports?

No, says Jamie Campbell, a sports announcer with Sportsnet. Campbell was on hand at Future Shop’s 3D TV launch event.

“The expense of broadcasting in 3D is considerable,” he says. “I think networks are trying to figure out how much it is going to cost to produce these games.”

Big ticket events like the World Cup and the Winter Olympics Games will be broadcast in 3D for sure. But for sports that are not already attracting a large number of viewers, it’s harder to justify. If a person doesn’t like watching raquet ball, they probably still won’t like watching it in 3D.

At the same time, 3D sports broadcasting won’t impact ticket sales, Campbell predicts.

“If there has been an impact, then we’ve already seen it,” he says. “Everything is televised now.”

I was lucky to see one Toronto Blue Jays game on TV per week back in 1977, he says. Now every single game of the season is televised.

Follow Brian Jackson on Twitter.

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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