Consumer-electronics manufacturers are on track to sell 4.2 million 3DTV sets worldwide in 2010, with the market projected to triple to 12.9 million units next year, according to research firm iSuppli.
The emerging category initially will be a fraction of the overall TV market, given that 170 million LCD TVs are expected to ship this year. In the first quarter of 2010, 4% of U.S. consumers that purchased a new television indicated they were buying one that was 3D-capable, according to iSuppli.
By 2012, 27.4 million 3DTVs will ship worldwide and by 2015 shipments will reach 78.1 million units, representing a compound annual growth rate of 80.2% between 2010 and 2015, iSuppli projected.
Three issues need to be resolved before there is "mass consumer acceptance" of 3DTVs, iSuppli analyst Riddhi Patel said: standardized video formats, content available and 3D glasses interoperability.
In the U.S., the Consumer Electronics Association has projected that around 1 million 3DTV sets will ship this year.
Industry executives speaking at NewBay Media's 3DTV2010 event on Tuesday were generally optimistic about a relatively quick uptake of the format by consumers, in the historical context of the adoption of HDTV.
"Sports fans are early adopters of technology, and we think that the genre plays very well in terms of the technology, and we're very optimistic about our plans," ESPN executive vice president of sales and marketing Sean Bratches said in the event's opening interview.
ESPN 3D is debuting June 11 with the first match of the 2010 World Cup with distributors, including Comcast and DirecTV. The network expects to offer around 100 events in 3D format in the first year, Bratches said.
Despite the technical and behavioral challenges with 3DTV, "because the viewer experience is so good, it's going to happen," Mark Hess, Comcast senior vice president of advanced business and technology development, said on another panel.
According to iSuppli, the majority of 3DTV sales in 2010 will occur in the U.S., Japan and Western Europe. Other countries primed for 3DTV include South Korea and Australia.