Market Watch

3DTVs Break the $1000 Barrier

September 17, 2010

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Samsung, the South Korean based conglomerate, will later this month release the PN50C490, the first sub-$1000 3DTV. The 50-inch, 720p plasma TV will initially retail at $989, includes 2 free pairs of 3D glasses and will be HD, but not internet, compatible.

3DTV has thus far had slow uptake amongst consumers, with high prices and limited content at present rendering it a relatively exclusive purchase. Across Western Europe, USA and Japan a typical 3D TV is over 45 inches, although only 9% of all TV sales correspond to those specifications, with an average price of $3,150. It is in this context that Samsung's latest offering is so interesting, marking the introduction of 3DTV as a more readily affordable technology, comparable to the price of regular HDTV sets. Following in the wake of IFA 2010, where both Panasonic and Sony launched a whole new range of 3D initiatives including personal video cameras and laptops, the proliferation of 3D products across the technology markets is beginning to take place, and pricing will inevitably become more competitive.

As 3DTV prices come more into line with those of regular TVs, 3D will become a standard feature of mid-tier TV sets, much like HD is today, and will begin to penetrate a considerable percentage of households. The extent of this penetration will depend on several issues, primarily availability of content. 3D production, especially in live and broadcast content, generates significant extra costs, which content providers and broadcasters will be reluctant to burden until the 3D consumer installed base increases dramatically. It is likely that the next few years will see operators use 3D as a niche technology, which provides extra value for special events. In the short-term, Blu-ray disc (BD) movies may provide the best source of material, as movie studios invest heavily in 3D films, spurred on by increased box office revenues. For many the price of supplementary hardware, such as shutter glasses (which typically retail for over $100), has been a strong deterrent in the uptake of 3D technology. With Samsung's recent decision to offer these for free with the PN50C490, manufacturers now face big decisions about whether to maintain the current high-end approach to 3DTV or follow Samsung in introducing the technology to more readily accessible territory.

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