A 3D TV Tipping Point?

The 3D TV market just got a little more exciting.

On Sunday, '3net' launched in 18 million homes from Discovery, Sony and Imax.

Fairgoers wear special '3D' glasses as they watch a movie on a 3D TV screen.
John Macdougall | AFP | Getty Images
Fairgoers wear special '3D' glasses as they watch a movie on a 3D TV screen.

And on Monday, as a Valentine’s gift to sports fans, ESPN launched on DirecTV, Comcast and Time Warner Cable. This brings the total number of 3D networks to three, including DirecTV's 'N3d' channel, launched last year in partnership with Panasonic .

Three dedicated 3D networks don't sound too shabby, but truth is, the 3D TV business has been much slower to launch than many had hoped. Only one million 3D TVs were shipped to retailers last year, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. And the CEA predicts that at very most, 3 percent of homes will have 3D TVs by December.

Now that these 3D channels are on the air, will consumers start buying 3D TVs? Critics have said that the market lacks critical mass content needed take 3D TVs mainstream.

Currently, many of the channels are only showing 3D shows only at certain times of the day, with 3Net offering up to 11 original programs. We'll have to carefully gauge the impact later this year when 3net adds concerts and movies to its lineup.

But for 3D TVs to become as common as High Definition sets, the price of TVs needs to come down, so they're only marginally (or not at all) more expensive than regular HD TVs. This is already starting to happen, based on the sets displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year.

Early adopters in home entertainment space are generally sports and movie fans, which means ESPN 3D and 3D DVDs are the areas to watch. The more content ESPN can offer in 3D, the faster these premium TV sets will sell.

This year, we' are likely to see 50 percent more 3D movies hitting theaters, which means more 3D films to run on on these 3D channels and on DVD. The real question remains: will this content be appealing enough to make 3D TVs the must-buy holiday gift when December comes round?

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