Record Sales Predicted for 3D

Panasonic says it expects to sell around 1 million 3D TV sets this year globally. "Demand is much greater than we expected," said Panasonic's Mike Miyata, who runs the company’s TV division.

Panasonic unveiled the latest 50" unit at the Roland Garros tennis tournament in Paris on May 26, where in partnership with Orange TV, Eurosport and the French Tennis Federation, they all combined to "kick start" true 3D transmissions for Europe. The transmissions were beamed to some 58 countries under the Eurosport footprint, using Eutelsat and GlobeCast, as well as to Orange TV HD (ADSL and Fibre) subscribers throughout France (on Channel 33).

Laurent Abadie, Panasonic's CEO for Europe, praised the 50" set as being a nice size, but said "we know it isn't enough for some people. We will launch a 65" next month because we know that with 3D you need a larger size set. At IFA in September we will demonstrate a 152" set for 3D, the largest-ever for TV.

Orange TV's Xavier Couture, head of content at Orange, said the partnership, and this first full 3D service in France, was important. "Our R&D team have worked very hard on 3D since 2008, and have been capturing the Roland Garros for the past 2 years, and we will be at Roland Garros for the next 2 weeks ensuring that everything is perfect. But we see 3D as the next revolution in television. We know our customers want 3D and we have carried out a number of fascinating experiments on 3D content, including ballet, theatre as well as soccer, rugby, boxing and other sports and movies."

Couture explained that Wednesday's top-rated talent show ('Star Maker') on M6 was also being carried in 3D on Orange. "It is now time to move on, and make a real start in 3D. 3D is perfect in that it provides an immersive experience, and is a positive move for the industry."

Eurosport's CEO Eric Le Lay explained that Eurosport partnered with Panasonic on HDTV, and that this 3D activity was a natural extension of that relationship. "The idea was to make this broadcast available for everyone, in about 4000 retail shops across Europe. This sporting event is just the beginning. I am very excited by what is possible in other sports especially rugby and soccer, as well as basketball. They all represent a learning process but we are learning fast." Le Lay expressed a firm opinion that 3D could actually take off and make a larger impact than HDTV. "I think 3D will go very quickly."

Tournament Director at Roland Garros, Gilbert Ysern, said 3D's time had come as far as the French Tennis Federation was concerned. "It is a major step forward for the sport as well as our event, it being the first in the world." He explained that finding the extra camera positions for 3D was a challenge, "but we managed".

Tom Morrold, senior analyst at Screen Digest, said the company’s studies indicated that even though this was an embryonic business, several millions of sets would be bought. By 2014, he said, around 20-25% of homes in the major ‘Western’ markets would own a 3D set, helped by games and the availability of other packed media, not least Hollywood movies in 3D.

By Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News