This Week's 3D Developments: Long-awaited Standards + High Prices

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The never-ending saga of 3D TV progress generated two developments this week - both indicators of the long, costly road ahead.

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) formally launched its long-awaited initiative to establish standards for terrestrial 3D TV. The broadcast standards group says the new project will “address home and mobile applications for 3D viewing.”

This week’s announcement is the next step in the years-long effort to create unified 3D broadcast standards, most recently identified in ATSC’s March status report.

ATSC expects the new standard to be completed within a year. A primary objective of the project is to adopt “a system that allows for simultaneous delivery of 2D HDTV, Mobile DTV, and 3D programs within the same channel, while ensuring backwards compatibility,” said ATSC Ppesident Mark Richer. The standards will encompass issues such as delivery of 3D content via fixed and mobile receivers to both views (left and right eye) in real-time as well as standards for content delivery in “non-real-time.”

While the world awaits the ATSC standard, early adopters will pay a significant premium for their 3D TV sets. A Strategy Analytics study, published this week, indicates that U.S. consumers who buy a 3D TV set this year will pay at least 56% more for it than for a comparable HDTV receiver. The report, “3DTVs: Buying Intentions and Early Adopter Feedback,”  suggests that the average price of a 3D set in the U.S. is $1,224, compared to $785 for an HDTV. (Both are surprisingly low sums.)

The Strategy Analytics study found that 11.5% of Americans are “somewhat” or “very” likely to buy a 3D TV set during the coming year, noting that prospective buyers attach “significant additional value to a 3DTV relative to a regular HDTV.”

“3DTVs exhibit all the classic signs of an emerging market with early teething problems,” said David Mercer, principal analyst and the study’s author. “Potential customers still report concerns over the potential health impact of watching 3DTV, so the industry must continue to address the remaining barriers to widespread adoption and focus on delivering further enhancements to in-home 3D technology.”

Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications LLC in Bethesda, MD, and a long-time interactive TV enthusiast. Reach him at