Interactive TV Today

by tracyswedlow

Dear Readers:

This week we offer some commentary from industry notables on the rather substantial “buzz” about 3D at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. You’ll read comments from Mike Bloxham, Allison Dollar, Jaspal Bhasin, Glen Friedman, Gary Arlen, and one anonymous satellite techie.

Mike Bloxham, Center for Media Design, Ball State University

As I sat waiting for the delayed start of Steve Ballmer’s keynote presentation at CES in advance of the formal opening of the show floor, I tweeted that it has already “become obvious that it is redundant to say anything about 3D TV.” Blogs, tweets, press releases and other forms of advance hype seemed full of little else at that point, and although we knew that e-readers, tablets, notebooks, Android and the rest would be prominent, it was already clear that the exhibitors’ investment in 3D TV on the show floor would be reflected in the ultimate distribution of column inches.

Having said that, I now recognize that my tweet was premature–there is more to be said. Perhaps not about the technology; perhaps not even about the content. But there is definitely more to said–and asked–about how consumers are likely to respond to this “next best thing” in TVland. After all, how long is it since significant numbers of people have incurred the expense of an HD TV and the associated content upgrades? And how many of them will now be wondering why the industry is telling them they don’t have the newest and best, so soon after persuading them to shell out good money for what was apparently exactly that only months ago? This is exactly the sort of thing that slows the adoption of technology, and the industry’s need/desire to accelerate the cycle is directly responsible for many consumers deliberately deciding to wait that bit longer while prices fall or the next model comes to market.

Of course, some will leap at 3D as soon as they can–but they will be the minority and won’t be enough to satisfy the needs of manufacturers to show the right numbers to the financial markets.

Then there’s the issue of the glasses. Unlike some others, I don’t feel that wearing 3D glasses per se is likely to be such a barrier to most consumers–as long as the glasses are well made and comfortable. However, for the many millions of us that wear glasses, they are going to have to fit comfortably over our normal glasses while we are in full slouch mode on the sofa–and that’s a challenge. Many of those that have been seen to date are large and somewhat cumbersome, and a design makeover is required (LG actually showed what could be done, with some very stylish glasses that sat easily and comfortably on the face, but the issue of how to deal with the visually impaired remains).

The good news is that the content seems to be coming through. With announcements from the likes of ESPN and Discovery of 3D networks, we can expect to see high-quality content of the type essential to any
prospect of success in 3D TV. “Avatar” and other movie events will certainly not be enough to smooth the path of 3D into the mass market.

Will 3D TV become a mass reality beyond gamers and early adopters? Yes. In the time scale predicted and desired by the manufacturers? Not so much.

Allison Dollar, iTV Alliance

3D TV is one of those rare advances that dramatically changes the game on the consumer side, but won’t profoundly affect the foundation of the business in the short term. At least in comparison to OTT, TV widgets and even mobile video, 3D won’t be driving our march toward modern business models. (Of course, CE manufacturers beg to differ while selling out their inventory!) 3D will become commonplace in the home soon enough, but personally I’m more interested in its use in immersive location-based experiences and B2B applications. On the other hand, it sure is cool, and that alone is worth celebrating as we leap into this new decade.”

Anonymous, Satellite Techie
I wore so many 3D glasses that the bridge of my nose hurts. Is seeing every animated movie ever made in 3D really necessary? I believe 3D TV is a fad because it isn’t like HDTV where there is a purpose for the way content is presented with utmost clarity; 3D seems so much more like a gimmick.


Jaspal Bhasin, itaas

The was lots of interest in 3D TV’s and displays. Many of them looked pretty good, but a lot will depend (IMHO) on the quality of the content. And there are still a number of issues that need to be worked out:

Will consumers sit around the living room with their friends and family, donning goofy-looking glasses?
Visual fatigue is an issue that needs to be studied and addressed (there was a story out recently about headaches caused by 3D).
I saw an ACER laptop with a 3D display that the person at the booth claimed will retail (or retails for) about $700. That makes it pretty mainstream to me.
Will cable companies be able to commercially support HD content that is 1080p to both eyes (which is what consumers will eventually demand)?
Obviously content is king and will drive adoption. I see three key areas: gaming, sports (ESPN’s announcement of a 3D channel is a good start) and adult (I hear there was a lot of buzz at AVN about 3D). Sites like yabazam.com also making 3D content available.

Glen Friedman, Ideas & Solutions!
Content and distribution will be critical for 3D:
DirecTV, Discovery and ESPN are playing it smart to establish beachhead positions in this new technology, even if it is not as big a development as HDTV.
Cable knows it can’t allow itself to be overshadowed again by DBS, and will make every effort to match DirecTV.
I don’t believe that 3D is the next color TV or even HDTV, but it will be an important add-on for sports, movies, games and technics.
The TV manufacturers need 3D to boost prices.
I thought 3D was cool, but my 13 year-old thought it was “the future.” Lots of people are betting he’s right.

Gary Arlen, Arlen Communications
(Note: Arlen’s comments were originally posted on Facebook.) CES Day Zero: 3D depends on content. Only 20% incremental cost to make 3D shows vs. regular HD, but how soon will there be enough 3D
shows (including sports) to justify 3D sets? 3 years? Wishful thinking? Or accurate optimism. Advanced handsets everywhere, including devices/tablets + e-readers. Almost affordable. No end of niche innovations and peripherals, widgets, etc. for cross-platform products. (iTV Doctor’s note: Gary’s comment about 20% incremental cost generated a small storm of comments, mostly arguing that the costs could easily double the current 2D production costs, with additional manpower, cameras, rigs and assorted technology. Not to mention the broadcasting cost of two (or even three) feeds: SD, HD and 3D.)

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The iTV Doctor is *Rick Howe*, who provides interactive television consulting services to programmers and advertisers. He is the recipient of a CTAM Tami Award for retention marketing and this year was nominated to Cable Pioneers. He is also the co-author of a patent for the use of multiscreen mosaics in EPG’s. Endorsed by top cable and satellite distributors, “Dr” Howe still makes house calls, and the first visit is always free. His services include product development, distribution strategy and the development of low-cost interactive applications for rapid deployment across all platforms. Have a question for the iTV Doctor? Email him at *itvdoctor@itvt.com

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