Why 3D TV Failed (And What’s Coming Next)

Why 3D TV Failed (And What’s Coming Next)

Back in 2010 Sony Australia’s Paul Colley forecasted that a large percentage of Australian viewers would have 3D televisions by 2014. In the same year, industry pundits such as Simon Murray predicted that sales of 3D TVs were set to increase in the years to come.

But others were heralding the death of 3D TVs and this year the remaining major manufacturers, LG and Sony, have said they will no longer produce 3D-capable televisions. So despite all the repeated push and positive predictions, what went wrong with 3D TV?

Tim Alessi, LG’s director of new product development, acknowledged this year that:

[…] 3D capability was never really universally embraced in the industry for home use, and it’s just not a key buying factor when selecting a new TV.

Sales of 3D TVs have been in decline for several years, according to data from analysts NPD. In 2013, 3D TVs accounted for 23% of TV purchases in the United States, but this dropped to just 8% in 2016.

The lack of interest in 3D TV is also evident on the websites of retail stores in Australia. For example, two years ago Harvey Norman had 92 televisions on its website, of which 53 were 3D capable. Today, of the 100 televisions listed, only 11 are 3D ready or capable.

But were Australians ever interested in 3D TV in the home?

Australians snub 3D TV

Australia’s commercial and pay television broadcasters made attempts to trial 3D television broadcasts during 2010-12.

The trials were claimed to be the “first free-to-air terrestrial 3D TV broadcast anywhere in the world” and included the NRL’s State of Origin.

Despite the limited trials, 3D TV was then shelved by Australian broadcasters. This may have been due in part to focus on the digital television transition, which had started in some regions during the same year.

On a consumer level, 3D technology has not gained traction at home. A 2012 report from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found that 3D was never a key factor in Australians purchasing a new television.

The main factors that drove viewers to buy a new model were: picture quality and viewing experience; a flat or bigger screen; and access to more channels. Of viewers surveyed in the ACMA report, 78% said that high definition was very or extremely important in their purchase. Only 16% said 3D capability was a key reason for their purchase.

So with manufacturers withdrawing from 3D TV, is 3D itself dead too?

Will 3D still exist?

3D has had a long and arguably more successful history in cinema. It’s been a go-to for the industry when faced with uncertainties with the introduction of other media, including television and the internet.

As shown in a chart, developed by Sony Professional Education and Knowledge (SPEAK), the first immense 3D film period was during the 1950s when television was being introduced to many countries around the world.

The most recent phase of 3D films dawned in 2009, a trend that some attribute solely to the release of James Cameron’s science-fiction film Avatar.

Despite the success of some 3D films, even Cameron has argued that Hollywood has overused 3D. It has been criticised as little more as a gimmick and a money-making exercise, as 3D tickets are more expensive than those for 2D screenings.

This period of 3D cinema is also beginning to slow as the percentage of films released is 3D declines.

Still, 3D appears to suit a cinema audience more than the home TV, so what could be the next add-on for TV at home?

Could VR and 360-video be the big thing?

The latest technology being discussed in media production is virtual reality (VR) and 360-video.

The highly regarded documentary-maker Sir David Attenborough created a virtual reality experience that was shown at the Australian Museum in Sydney last year, and at the National Museum of Australia this month in Canberra.

But an experience where everyone is wearing headsets is not the best use of a cinema space.

This is just one reason why VR could be an interesting space in which television broadcasters can experiment – perhaps using it as additional content rather than as competition.

The NBA has already trailed 360-video, including games and the recent documentary Follow my Lead.

In Australia, Fox Sports began to experiment last year with the release of Fox Vision. The initial launch was focused on the peak race of the V8 Supercars season.

It allowed the viewer a range of “second screen experiences” via their smartphone, including 360 video hot laps. Fox Sports will expand to other sporting events during the year.

The Seven network also partnered with Samsung to provide VR and 360-video experiences from the Rio Olympics.

But broadcasters should look beyond sport when experimenting with VR and 360-video. It could be added to many other types of TV program in Australia.

A key benefit is that it does not require you to buy a new TV. Instead, you can use a smartphone, which 84% of Australians already have.

It would further engage with the audience rather than completely take them away from the television screen. Reality programs particularly come to mind, a key battle ground for commercial broadcasters in Australia.

For example, Ten could allow its audience 360 access to the I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here jungle. Sit in the lounge room with Wayne and Tom on GoggleBox, or be in the centre of the trials for Survivor.

Maybe Seven could allow a 360 view of the My Kitchen Rules table or Nine could allow the audience to be one of the guests at a Married at First Sight wedding.

So during a year where the battle for ratings is focused upon a sports and reality program lineup, 360 video maybe a go-to for Australian broadcasters.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.


  • Paul and Simon were either delusional or trying to create a reality by repeating something they knew to be false. I think it’s safe to say that a significant percentage of us knew 3D TVs, like curved display TVs were a gimmick destined to fail due to their high price as well as that of the glasses.

  • TV at home died because it’s only really suitable if you have a proper cinema set up. Where the room is dark and you’re free of distractions.

  • I got a 3D tele early on, mostly because it was a convenient filter for what I really wanted in a tele. At the time things were transitioning, and it was a good base to start from – every 3D tele had the HDMI standard I wanted, inbuilt PVR, etc.

    But I cant remember the last time I loaded up a 3D movie, or used the inbuilt uplift feature. It’s just a pain, and doesnt really add much in the end.

    I think it failed because it was never properly pushed by the industry myself. When Avatar had a chance to push 3D into the home, they chose to limit it to a single brand – Panasonic. With nothing else truly doing 3D justice, the opportunity was lost, and this is the outcome.

    Pity, when it works, it works well. Some sports (like basketball and surprisingly cricket) work well in 3D, and animated movies seem to come alive as well. There was enough that worked that they could have built a decent user base pretty quickly.

    • Greed killed 3D – did you ever look at the price of 3D Bluray discs? Glasses were expensive unless you bought LG, who had a passive design.But it was the cost of media and a lack of provision of broadcast content that was the killer.
      Perhaps if Netflix, Stan and other streaming services had been a force at the beginning of 3D there might have been a different outcome. They would have forced some competition into the media pricing.
      Also, it’s just not that great. Apart from a few headline films like Avatar it just didn’t offer that much.

      • Fully agree. My tele (50″ Samsung) had a bonus offer that made it too good to resist so I didnt need to worry about part of that, but greed was definitely a factor. The tele came with 2 sets of glasses, and by redemption 2 more for a total of 4.

        With a couple of 2D movies (2 x crappy doco’s and How to Train Your Dragon) and a 24″ 1080p tele tossed in (worked as a pressie for sister), it was a bargain. They’d given a good reason to bite, but then didnt follow through.

        The Avatar thing was what pissed me off the most at the time though, it was a perfect chance to cement the technology and they let everyone down. When the movies were then released at $50 a pop, it just reinforced that they didnt care about the tech, only profits.

        In the end, those decisions drove everything else. The interest wasnt apparent, so nobody bothered investing in making it better. Which meant less profits and creating a spiral, to the point we’re at now. I’ve seen enough films in 3D to believe it would work, but its not going to be every movie.

        Heavy effects/CGI movies work great, dramas and rom coms not so much. Its animated movies that work the best though, and the easiest to convert – its only processor time on a computer. Sadly, with those being aimed at kids, who are going to have the most problems with active shuttering, its not an avenue to success.

        Maybe in another 20 years.

  • It also failed because approximately 30% of people get motionsick from 3d, so of the minority who would want 3d in a home tv, forgoing better colour/resoulution, well knock that amount down by about 30%. That’s leaves a pretty poor market share.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!