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Panasonic (s PC) started to sell its new line of 3D TVs through a partnership with Best Buy (s BBY) today, offering a bundle of a of 50-inch plasma TV, a 3D-capable Blu-ray player and a pair of glasses for around $2900. Consumers will also soon be able to buy similar set-ups from Samsung and Sony (sw SNE).
However, at least some of these devices won’t be available at Amazon (s AMZN) and other online retailers. Panasonic announced that it’s going all bricks-and-mortar with 3D TV to educate consumers about the technology, according to an article from Marketwatch.com.
Question is, will consumers bite? Not only are 3D set-ups significantly more expensive that your regular LCD or LED screen, with pairs of extra glasses alone costing $150 a pop, but there’s also limited content available to show off the technology. Panasonic will give buyers of its 3D TVs a free Blu-ray disc of Monsters vs. Aliens, which is Dreamworks’s (s DWA) first 3D release. However, 3D box office blockbuster Avatar won’t even be available in 3D when it’s released on Blu-ray and DVD some time before June.
The reason for that decision, according to News Corp. (s NWS) COO Chase Carey, is that “the market is not there” for a 3D release of Avatar, Dow Jones reports. This revelation puts a damper on hopes that Avatar will help to kick-start the home 3D market after becoming the commercially most successful movie ever at the box office. Carey said that a 3D version of the movie could be released later down the road, hinting at the possibility that studios could use 3D as another way to enforce release windows in a world where viewers have gotten used to instant satisfaction.
Hollywood is on schedule to release more than three dozen 3D movies this year, but a slow adoption curve of home 3D set-ups, as well as the need to squeeze as much money as possible out of slumping DVD and Blu-ray sales, could entice other studios to adopt the idea of a 3D window as well – which in turn could hurt sales of 3D equipment. It’s like a snake swallowing its own tail, in all of its stereoscopic beauty.
Relief for consumer electronics makers like Panasonic and Samsung could come from sports programming. ESPN (s DIS) has announced that it will start a 3D sports network by June — just in time for the World Cup — and in the coming months DirecTV (s DTV) also plans to launch three 3D channels with movies and sports programming. Question is: Is that enough to entice consumers to plunk down 3000 dollars or more for a 3D setup?
GigaOm Pro analyst Alfred Poor predicted last October that the 3D market was just about ready for takeoff, but that it will take until 2012 for a critical mass of content to be available. I asked him how he feels about this now, given the fact that consumers may have to be extra patient to get their hands on 3D releases. Here’s his take:
“15 or 20 feature films a year do not make enough content to fill one week of major network prime time programming. There are going to be some early experiments with 3D, such as ESPN’s plans for 3D coverage of sporting events, but that won’t be enough to justify buying a new TV for anyone but the early adopters.”
Poor added that it will take until 2013 before 3D uptake will be significant. Maybe Hollywood will have come around and actually put out some 3D titles on Blu-ray by that time.
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