It's Good to be Number Three

Americans are sometimes criticized for being ignorant of the rest of the world. I guess the fact that most Americans can't locate Canada on a map tends to confirm that. (It's somewhat south of the North Pole) Along the same lines, we tend to forget that there are consumer markets other than ours. Moreover, those markets can be surprisingly different from ours. Something that's hot here, might not be hot somewhere else. And vice versa.

Take 3D TV, for example. Interest in 3D TV is, at best, tepid in North America. But a report from NPD DisplaySearch finds that 3D TV is gaining traction in China, as well as Western Europe. Apparently those regions appreciate the exciting viewing experience that 3D provides. Or else they didn't get the memo that the glasses make you look dorky.

On one hand, it seems sad that two other markets are forging ahead with new 3D technology while America sticks with crappy 2D TV. But that's not necessarily bad. If we let those early-adopter consumers amortize the research costs and ramp up the volume, maybe 3D sets will be cheap when we finally decide to buy them. Sometimes it's good to be #3. Or, maybe we'll never buy 3D at all. While in China the penetration rate of 3D TVs in the 3rd quarter was twice the rate in the 2nd quarter, in North America the percentage of 3D televisions shipped actually declined.

So if it's not 3D, what do Americans want? NPD says we prefer large, inexpensive TV sets with fewer features. In my mind, that description somehow seems unflattering. So, I consulted another research group, Parks Associates, and they say that Americans like TVs with built-in internet connectivity. That sounds better, so let's go with that. Interestingly but not surprisingly, Americans who intend to buy a connected TV are more likely to downgrade or cancel their pay-TV subscription within the year. So, to help offset the cost of a new TV, we are trading cable for connectivity. In contrast, perhaps 3D just seems like another door to higher content costs.

Still, I hope 3D makes it here. I call on Brazil, Switzerland, Ireland, Uruguay, Guam, Hawaii, Des Moines, and all my other fellow countries in North America to give 3D TV another look. Let's show the world that we are #1.