3-D TVs: Future, Fad or Flop?

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Throughout 2010, many analysts hailed the rise of the 3-D television, with some predicting that sales will double in the next year and increase nine-fold by 2015. But apparently one group did not get the memo: consumers.

Just 6% of Americans say they are likely to buy a 3-D TV in the next 12 months, while the vast majority (59%) have absolutely no intention of doing so, according to a new survey by TV ratings service Nielsen.

“Our research shows that, despite positive perceptions towards 3-D TV programming, consumers are still hesitant to invest in 3-D TV sets – opting to take a ‘wait and see’ approach,” said Frank Stagliano, executive vice president of TV Primary Research for Nielsen, in the press release. “Recent technology battles between plasma and LCD or blu-ray and HD DVDs have trained consumers to wait until widespread adoption is more likely. This drives down cost, making technology more affordable.”

Nielsen polled 27,000 consumers online around the world and found that global demand for 3-D sets is slightly higher than in the U.S., though still not overwhelming, with nearly a quarter of those polled saying they will likely buy a 3-D TV in the next year. But the U.S. had a disproportionate number of consumers who were totally against the idea of buying one of these new televisions.

Moreover, Nielsen suggested that 3-D TV won’t take off in the U.S. or elsewhere at least until more quality 3-D content is available, specifically from popular TV shows. For now, consumers seem to be unsure of how they’ll use a 3-D TV set, which typically cost $2,000-$3,000 or even much more for the most sophisticated models, to justify the cost.

Retailers in the U.S. have certainly experienced less demand than initially expected. Best Buy (Stock Quote: BBY), for example, saw revenues drop in the third quarter of this year, partly due to poor 3-D TV sales, which the company says “have been slower to take hold.”

Still, we can understand the frustration that electronics retailers must be feeling right now.

Consumers have clearly had a love/hate relationship with 3-D TVs. In fact, another survey from Nielsen released earlier this year found that most American consumers were interested in buying a 3-D TV.  But perhaps it’s all just cyclical: Experts and retailers hype up the product, causing consumers to get more hyped about it as well, until they get sticker shock and question the wisdom of making such a large purchase.

For more products that didn’t quite catch on this year, check out MainStreet’s roundup of the biggest gadget flops from 2010.

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