Samsung will make 3D content available through their internet-enabled TVs (IETVs) in the US. The service, which originally launched in South Korea in March, will stream 3D video directly to the TV, and be made available through Samsung's SmartHub interface, via the "3D Explore" app. Initially consumers will gain access to free content, with movie trailers and music videos offered as examples, but it is expected that access to paid-for feature films will be enabled by the end of the year.
The "Explore 3D" app was designed by Rovi Corporation, and built upon its new white-label video distribution infrastructure, RoxioNow, obtained as part of the recent acquisition of Sonic Solutions. Packaged together with Rovi's own white-label electronic programming guide, which provides metadata on video content, the release represents one of the first known deployments from the newly integrated company.
2010 was arguably a disappointing year for sales of 3D TVs - just over 4m 3D-ready sets were sold worldwide, significantly less than originally predicted by manufacturers. As time passes, 3D TVs will inevitably permeate deeper into society - the technology is reasonably cost-effective to implement, and will account for 12.1 per cent of the global TV installed base by 2015. Yet for TV manufacturers these next few years are vital, representing a chance to benefit from the current profit margins of 3D TVs before the market becomes commoditised.
In order to capitalise upon this opportunity, an entire 3D ecosystem has to be in place - including the production and distribution of content. Samsung's "3D Explore" app is a reflection of the lack of availability of 3D content amongst pay TV operators - where all 3D content is currently typically bundled within a single channel. With this service, Samsung intend to go over-the-top (OTT) of existing 3D broadcast channels and directly provide consumers with a wider range of on-demand 3D viewing.
At present, this is still very much a hardware play from Samsung - all available content will initially be free, and will not include any feature films. Indeed, as the largest TV retailer in 2010, with 19.2 per cent of flat-panel sales worldwide, the success of this service from Samsung does not necessarily depend on any relative success they may find as an OTT service provider. Rather, this strategy will ultimately be considered successful provided it places pressure on operators and drives an increasing volume of 3D content onto the TV screen, increasing the demand in turn for 3D TVs.
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