Anita Davis
Feb 4, 2010

3D Television: The Avatar Effect

Early developers of 3D TV pushed for its adoption as long as 15 years ago, but the concept is finally moving on from a pipe dream to a reality. Yet after all the hype, what will 3D TV actually offer brands and media outlets?

3D Television: The Avatar Effect

1. 3D televisions

3D television are simply those that can display pictures in both 2D and 3D mode, though there’s no way to see the eye-popping images without 3D glasses accompanying the set. The gadget is buzz-worthy right now because of its debut at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, with help from the global 3D blockbuster Avatar. Toshiba, Samsung, Sony, Panasonic and LG all have plans to introduce 3D capabilities sometime this year, with Philips reportedly aiming to launch its set next year, which won’t require 3D glasses.

2. Media channels

Naturally, media channels are also getting into the mix. In the US - which is the main market experimenting with the medium - ESPN says it aims to launch its own 3D network in June and will reportedly air at least 85 live sporting events during its first year. Discovery Communications, Sony and IMAX also intend to launch 3D in the US beginning in 2011. The companies say they aim to establish a solid lead in the sector, and eventually begin international distribution. A spokesperson for ESPN said that 3D provides fans a compelling sports viewing experience and will offer new marketing and sponsorship opportunities.

3. Advertising

For advertisers, 3D TV represents a dynamic opportunity to express a depth and emotional connection they could not achieve previously. Robert Hsieh, CEO of ZenithOptimedia Taiwan, says that advertisers should start preparing for 3D. “All content will eventually use the format and hardware will be 3D-enabled. There is no doubt that the 3D TV is a more powerful format for displaying products and services.”

4. Production

The technical process of creating an ad will also be different under the 3D model. Gregory Birge, founder and managing director of F5 Digital Consulting, says that for the type of TV that doesn’t need 3D glasses, designers must create a source from eight different points of view that are later merged together. “Most important will be to think 3D before you shoot,” he suggests. “This is one of the key success of Avatar - scenes are not artificially merged to force-fit a 3D scene. The same goes for 3D advertising. The message and the concept should require 3D and then the entire shooting should integrate it in the process. There will be technical constraints as well.”

5. High cost

But the high cost of producing content - whether TVCs or actual programmes - may deter advertisers for now. Deputy general manager of China Media Exchange Patrick Xu estimates that creating a TVC for analogue television in China costs between Rmb 300,000 (US$43,942) and Rmb 1 million ($146,475). Creating an ad for digital TV is roughly double the price of an analogue spot, while 3D production will be “much, much higher”. So exactly who will foot the bill to ensure 3D becomes mainstream? Birge guesses that it will be institutions and organisations such as governments, Olympic committees and sports franchises, as well as brands with high-profit margin products, such as luxury, travel, casinos and pharmaceuticals.

6. Consumers

While 3D TV is beginning to deliver on the hype, the logistics of getting consumers to buy screens - and getting brands to create compatible ads - are still complex. The price of the 3D sets is comparable to that of their 2D counterparts - Samsung and Mitsubishi are reportedly selling theirs, which still require 3D glasses, for between $1,000 and $2,800. But expecting consumers to buy a new set when they have only recently splashed out on high definition flat-screens may be a lot to ask. Additionally, programming is at its most nascent stage and consumer acceptance of 3D TV is unlikely to happen until strong and varied content is available from several networks. “No market is there yet,” says Xu.

This article was originally published in the 28 January 2010 issue of Media.

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