ESPN’s Decision to Close 3D Channel Raises the Question: Is 3D Dead?

Is 3D dead? That’s the question being asked in the wake of news that ESPN plans to close its ESPN 3D cable channel by the end of the year due to low demand—so low that audience ratings were below Nielsen's measurable threshold, according to a StarTribune report.

Voices throughout the industry are questioning whether 3D will ever take off or remain as a little-used TV feature that will eventually wither away.

Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and senior director of research for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), doesn’t see the home 3D experience disappearing quite yet.

“As with all new technology introductions, initial sales were slow,” he said. “Technology diffusion follows S-shaped adoption curves and it takes time for consumers to become aware of the technology and subsequently bring it into their homes. 3DTV wasn’t the motivating purchase factor for a large swath of consumers that many within the industry had hoped.”

At the same time consumers are buying 3DTVs, even if they don’t know it. The CEA reports that about 17 percent of all TVs sold this year will have 3D functionality and that U.S. factory unit sales of 3D-enabled TVs are expected to reach 5.7 million this year, a 39 percent increase over 2012 sales.

“3D now settles in among the host of features included in the latest TVs—and is a standard feature for all almost all high-end television sets purchased today,” DuBravac said. “This isn’t to say 3DTV will one day fully engulf all entertainment. 3DTV will make for a more rich entertainment experience in some situations, but probably not all. While pieces of the 3D ecosystem will likely continue to ebb and flow, the home 3D experience isn’t disappearing just yet.”

What’s your take on 3D? Do you watch movies at home in 3D? Do you watch ESPN 3D? Is your TV a passive or active system? Share your comments.

mikerr's picture

We love our home 3D.
At first we watched tons of DirecTv 3D channels but after a while we had seen it all and there is nothing really new except for the 3D pay movie channel (which we do use but mostly use Vudu for 3D movies that we do not already own).
We have a passive system and about 40 pairs of glasses so no matter what event, birthdays Christmas, etc, everyone can share the fun. ...could never afford to do that with shutter glasses.
We also went all-out and got a 3D camera and after events have the family gather round the tv to review family photos in 3D ... we (AND THEY) all love it.
We also keep buying cool new 3D movies as they come out.
3D is not Weird to look at and does not cause head-aches, people !!! is simply another diminsion of reality.
senses are: taste, sound, touch, sight, and SPACIOUS IMMERSION.



Deus02's picture

I heard Fred Gaudelli(former producer of Sunday night football)interviewed the other day and it would seem that more than anything, the technological hurdles along with the way sports are played, in their opinion, was really not conducive to making regular 3D broadcasts feasible. According to him, the "suits" at the network are actually looking with much more favor on eventual "4K" broadcasts down the road.

3D will be there but in its original more practical usable application with primarily action/animated movies.

Boken's picture

Until they can get 3D without wearing glasses I will not get on board. They also need to make it better where it doesn't look like layers of 2D but actual 3D.

aleksandr's picture

I like the 3D in action/animated bluray movies, but not in regular TV. The 90% of my movie waching still 2D.

anthonyd's picture

First the 3D in 3D bluray movies, is much better than broadcast. For broadcast maybe with 4K TV's it will look better. When it is avaiable I do purchase it. For specific movies. Life of Pi for example was a purchase that I seeked out in 3D Blu Ray. Also (I have DirecTv) all the 3D stations are so far removed. I think it would make sense to have ESPN 3D right next to ESPN. Like they did when HD stations first became an option. SD/HD Alert me- "This program is available in 3D." Also the content, how many times can I watch "underwater mircales" in 3D or "Guitar Sessions". Make 3D PPV movies available for the same price as HD. Lure me in with bonus content. Also make it passive technology. I have a Samsung with active technology and we worry about if he glasses are turned off or is it on. If the powers that be want it to work make all the TV's 3D enabled. Then consumers will at least have the option. Now it's just getting them to tune it.

John Freeman's picture

In a word yes. While there are several people above who love, the average consumer simply ignores 3D. They do not like using the glasses and few people do. This idea needs to be reworked, for the average consumer to enjoy. ESPN and most of cable TV do not cater to Videophiles or Audiophiles.

notabadname's picture

ESPN's 3D failure is more about content and viewing style. Their programing wasn't very good. It's not like the NFL or MLB was being shown. I found the programming to be "lower tier". I also think sports programing is much more casual type viewing (on in the background), enjoyed while socializing or accomplishing other tasks. It is not "sit down, dim the lights and drop everything we are doing" type of viewing, like movies or prime time shows. That is the type of viewing more people will tune in for and wear glasses.

DaleC's picture

I have three 3D panels and think that the best possible market for the current tech is sports.

Without a large amount of free programming, 3D will, likely, die. Again.

I agree with previous comments about a "layered" 2D, rather than a true 3D viewing experience. Perhaps future tech will make it truly immersive.

Biffstar's picture

Many people (myself included) watch TV while doing something else.. Browsing/playing on a phone or tablet, eating, etc.

Having to multitask while wearing stupid, ugly, and cumbersome glasses just makes it a chore to watch 3D at home.

It's a dumb fad and I won't be crying when it dies again.

s14brown's picture

3D actually is pretty cool when viewing on a projection system. A plasma or LED (unless it's 80" or above) looks pretty strange. It's like a bunch of objects coming out of a box. I'm not at all saying 3D is bad or goofy, but if you want to really experience it, you have to watch it on a large projection system.

david bone's picture

i have two 3d tvs.i like the technology.i dont watch much in 3d.the black levels are better than most.i think someone will per-fect it.i would hope its not a fad