Chris Nuttall Sony, Panasonic still bullish on 3D

Two weeks before soccer’s World Cup kicks off a 3D content extravaganza, the TV players have been updating their industry on how they are eyeing the prize of winning consumers over to the new technology.

Sony and Panasonic were in ebullient mood at the Society for Information Display’s conference (SID 2010) here in Seattle on Monday, while analysts from the co-organisers DisplaySearch acted as referees, suggesting they calm it down a bit.

In a keynote speech, Stan Glasgow, Sony Electronics president in the US, asked attendees to don 3D glasses and watch stunning pictures from a Mardi Gras celebration and this year’s US Masters golf major.

He said Sony research suggested 38 per cent of US consumers were likely to buy a 3D TV in the next year and 67 per cent had said their next TV would be a 3D set.

“These results point to just how ready for 3D consumers are. We expect demand to be strong for our 3D Bravia TVs this summer,” he said.

Sony’s projections don’t tally with forecasts of the DisplaySearch research firm. “We take a bit more conservative view of how 3D TV ramps up, there’s some hype involved and the realities of an immature ecosystem,” said Paul Gagnon, director of North American TV research.

He expects 2.5m 3D TVs to be sold worldwide this year and around 55m accumulated sales by the end of 2013.

Compare those figures to Mr Glasgow’s prediction of 3D growing to 100m units over the next three years.

Peter Fannon, corporate affairs vice president for Panasonic, was equally bullish. Almost a third of American households bought an HDTV more than six years ago and were ready for an upgrade, while 20-25 per cent still did not have a flat panel HDTV.

“In addition, the premium for 3D offered already by Panasonic, first out in March, is very modest, just a few hundred bucks more,” he said.

“If you build the appropriate partnerships, support the production and bring products of high quality at reasonable prices to market, then 3D will take off.”

Mr Gagnon said there were still hurdles to overcome – the quality of content being converted from 2D to 3D was debatable, 3D glasses were not always compatible between brands and the price premium could seem large as sets tended to be high-end LED-backlit TVs.

Perhaps 3D’s biggest obstacle is that consumers are already spoilt for innovative choice – regular HDTVs offer stunning pictures at affordable prizes, LED backlighting still seems a new innovation and TVs with integrated internet connectivity and content are also expected to feature prominently this year.