Reasons Why People Won't Watch 3D TV
Washington, D.C. (July 6, 2011)
-- Editor's Note: To
celebrate the 10th anniversary of TVPredictions.com, I am
publishing a series of features
honoring what I think represents the '10 Best' in the field of
(And in some cases, '10 Worst' articles will expose
companies and people who I think are failing to strive toward
excellence, or, in some cases, not even making a serious effort
to satisfy their customers.)
Today, I present the '10 Reasons Why People Won't Watch 3D TV'
promotion from TV makers and the Hollywood studios, sales of 3D
TVs have been remarkably low over the last 18 months. Last year,
the Consumer Electronics Association says only about 1.1 million
3D TV sets were sold. And this month, the research firm SNL
Kagan estimated that even fewer will be sold in 2011, although
the company is more optimistic about future years.
Why aren't Americans buying the new sets?
present, 'The 10 Reasons Why People Won't Watch 3D TV!'
1. 3D TV Interrupts Your Viewing Experience
You can't watch 3D TV for more
than a minute without finding your eye focusing on individual
elements of the screen rather than the picture as a whole. For
example, if you're watching a 3D presentation of a college
football game, you find yourself watching the player whose
display best showcases the 3D effect. It's natural; you know
you're watching 3D so your mind and eye tend to focus
exclusively on the strongest 3D elements of the picture.
That makes for an interesting minute or two, but it's not why
people watch television. They want to take in the entire
picture; to be absorbed by it; to let it take over their entire
thinking process so they can relax and lose themselves in what
they are watching. 3D doesn't allow for that; it constantly
interrupts you to check out some 3D effect. After awhile, you
almost forget what's happening on the field or in a movie. If
you're a Chicago Cubs fan, that could be a plus. But for most
viewers, it's a strong negative.
2. It Makes You Sick
Doctors have estimated that up to 20 percent of the population
will get headaches, dizziness or even nausea while watching 3D.
Steven Nusinowitz, an
associate professor of ophthalmology at the Jules Stein Eye
Institute in Los Angeles, tells CNN that 3D glasses have a
polarized filter that separate two images, thereby enabling the
3D effect. However, the doctor adds that the separation occurs
so quickly that your brain may have difficulty accepting it.
"The movie is telling you 'Hey, I'm moving around in this
scene,' but your vestibular system is telling you, 'I'm not
moving anywhere,' and that disconnect will make you feel sick,
for some people," Nusinowitz said.
TV makers even warn consumers in their 3D TV manuals that they
could get sick while watching 3D; they advise that you should
take off the glasses every 15 minutes or so.
How many consumer products have ever been successful with the
masses if their makers had to tell you they might make you sick?
3. Millions of People Just Bought New TVs
Because of the federally
mandated Digital TV transition in 2009, millions of Americans
bought a new TV to ensure they could continue watching when
their local stations switched from analog to digital. Even in
good times, people tend not to buy a new TV every few years or
so; they buy one with the intention of keeping it for years.
And we're now in an economic morass; will people sacrifice the
rent money for a 3D TV? When they probably have a TV in their
living rooms that's not even three years old?
Not Much 3D to Watch On My Cable or Satellite
DIRECTV is arguably the
leader in providing 3D programming -- and the satcaster offers
all of four 3D channels! Are you going to buy a new 3D TV for
There's talk that CBS might launch a new 3D channel, but for
now, it's just talk. Generally, the networks have shown little
enthusiasm for investing in a technology that doesn't seem to be
exciting the masses.
5. There's Not Much
3D to Watch On Blu-ray
The studios have rolled out some titles in 3D Blu-ray, most
notably Avatar. But the percentage of 3D movies compared
to 2D movies is miniscule. And the majority of 3D movies on Blu-ray
are animated films targeted to kids; that's nice for the kids,
but what about Mommy and Daddy who pay for the sets?
3D apologists say more 3D movies will be coming soon to home
video. But there's actually evidence that fewer may be coming in
the next year or so. Other than Avatar and Transformers 3, the
2D versions of 3D films are generating more revenue than the 3D
editions. If that continues in the second half of 2011, it's not
hard to envision the studios pulling the reins on future 3D
productions. Seriously, if they don't bring in extra revenue,
why spend the extra dollars to make them?
6. People Hate the 3D Glasses
Just about every objective
consumer study has found that people hate wearing those 3D
goggles while watching 3D TV. It's an uncomfortable experience,
particularly if you wear prescription glasses or contact lenses
with different prescriptions for each eye. The 3D apologists say
that 3D sans the glasses is in the works, but most analysts say
it will take years before the technology is ready
7. The Glasses Are
Too Expensive For a Family
Some TV makers bundled one free
pair of 3D glasses with each 3D TV purchase. But what about a
family of four? Or, a family of six? Or, a family of eight.
Large families do exist, you know. (Just watch any Discovery
channel documentary if you don't believe me.) With the glasses
costing up to $150 a pop, how can even a mid-sized family afford
one for everyone? Answer: They can't. And if an entire family
can't watch something at the same time, chances aren't good that
they will watch it at all.
3D TV Is Not HDTV
The 3D apologists like to say
that High-Definition TV had a slow ramp-up to success. Well,
that's true. But people didn't buy HDTVs in the early days
because the sets were cost-prohibitive, with some medium-sized
ones costing up to $10,000.
In contrast, the cost of a 3D TVs is just slightly more than a
comparably-sized 2D HDTV. People aren't buying them because they
cost too much; they aren't buying them because they don't want
In addition, when someone saw a HDTV in person, he wanted it, at
least eventually when the price came down. The picture added to
your viewing enjoyment because it made you feel like you're were
there; the picture was that realistic. But 3D is the
antithesis of realism; it's a tech trick designed to jolt a
response from the viewer. But the response doesn't last
long and it's ultimately unsatisfying. Unlike HDTV, watching 3D
TV is not relaxing; it's jarring.
9. 3D TV Is
Not Easy to Use
The 3D goggles are uncomfortable
to wear -- and, again, if your entire family wants to watch the
show, you have to get goggles for everybody.
Also, many people have trouble actually seeing the 3D effect
because of various vision issues; some people have different
prescriptions for each eye, etc.
And finally, you have to sit in a certain spot in the room to
get the best experience from watching 3D. Sure, every TV has an
optimal place to watch from, but 3D requires an even more rigid
Hassles, hassles, hassles. Who wants to pay more for a TV that
gives you more hassles.
TV Has Lost the Culture War
When I first voiced
my doubts about 3D TV more than three years ago, I was nearly
alone. Most tech writers said it could revolutionize the
industry and mainstream journalists were equally as excited. But
since then, things have changed. Even tech journalists who
normally gush over a new gizmo have openly mocked the failures
of 3D TV. Well-respected movie critics and pundits such as Roger
Ebert have predicted it will go the way of the pet rock and
In short, 3D TV is not cool; it won't give you status symbol
points in the neighborhood. If anything, buying it might get you
Few tech products become successful if they
don't first win the culture
war; to win over the masses, you have to create an aura that
buying the gizmo will make you cool.
But 3D TV is definitely not cool in the culture.
Since the ballyhooed introduction of 3D TV in late 2009, CE
officials have tried to downplay expectations by saying it will
just be a "feature" in a 2D set and not the main reason why
people will buy one. With that in mind, research firms have
projected that millions of '3D TVs' will find their way into
people's homes over the next several years.
That may be true, but even if people have a TV that can display
3D, that doesn't mean they will watch anything in 3D. In fact,
for all the reasons listed above, chances are they won't.
The 3D 'feature' may be used as often as such TV features as the
Closed Caption button or the Mute button.
That is, if the studios and networks actually continue producing
programs in 3D.
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Phillip Swann is president and publisher of TVPredictions.com.
He has been quoted in dozens of publications and broadcast
outlets, including CNN, Fox News, Inside Edition, The New York
Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Financial
Times, The Associated Press and The Hollywood Reporter. He can
be reached at email@example.com
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