How Many 3D HDTVs Shipped in 2010? Was that a Success?

The exact number appears to be a matter of debate. According to a recent report from DisplayBank, 6.2M 3D HDTVs shipped worldwide in 2010. DisplaySearch says that number is 3.2M. How can there be such a big difference in these numbers? Frankly, I have no idea.

Many 3D HDTV forecasts, covering a whole range of numbers, were issued during 2010. Some firms increased or decreased their forecasts as market conditions changed — which is fine for inventory control, but more troubling for long-term planning.

Last February, Insight Media went through its 3D HDTV forecast process and created our view of how 2010, and beyond, would evolve. Our assessment? We forecast 3.3M 3D HDTVs worldwide for 2010 and 1.1M 3D HDTVs for the US and Canada. According to the CEA, preliminary data suggests that US sales of 3D HDTVs, including DLP HDTVs, will be 1.1M. And, if you believe the DisplaySearch worldwide numbers, our forecast from last February for 2010 was right on the money.

What’s in store for 2011? We predict active shutter glasses solutions continuing to dominate sales, but passive glasses 3D HDTVs sales will get everyone’s attention in 2011. In addition, autostereoscopic 3D HDTVs will enter the market. Here, we are less optimistic, believing that current products will not meet the needs of the ordinary consumer — at least, not for a few years. We are currently working on three new forecast reports to cover active shutter, passive polarized and autostereoscopic 3D HDTVs. Stay tuned.

Another recent topic of debate — should the number of sales of 3D HDTVs in 2010 be viewed as a success or a failure? From the TV makers’ perspective, their goals for selling 3D HDTVs were much higher in the spring and summer of 2010 — unrealistically high, in our opinion. Those expectations lowered as 2010 evolved, so some might view that as a failure.

On the other hand, these same TV companies are now turning lemons into lemonade by suggesting that the sales of 3D HDTVs were actually quite good in comparison to HDTV sales, which took 5-6 years to reach an equivalent level of sales. So, 2010 was a success!

From the retailer’s perspective, I think most would agree that sales did not live up to expectations. Lack of 3D content, high TV prices and costly glasses, a slow economy and consumer confusion all detracted from a robust selling environment.

I think consumer reaction is mixed. If you bought a 3D HDTV, you were likely to be happy with performance, even if you didn’t have much content to watch. For those who didn’t buy, they might indeed view 2010 as a failure for the same reasons retailers were not happy.

Programmers like ESPN and DirecTV are also likely to have a mixed reaction to 2010. Much was learned about how to produce and deliver 3D and about why quality matters so very much. But, will advertisers step in this year to establish a viable long-term business model for 3D? That remains to be seen, but we are encouraged by the vibrant activity to create more content, 3D channels and vehicles for delivering this to consumers.

So was 2010 a success or failure? The cop-out answer is — it depends upon your perspective.

By Chris Chinnock, Insight Media