3D TV Prices Slashed, Sales Lower than Expected

Last Updated Dec 22, 2010 10:21 AM EST

3D TVs are getting slammed this holiday season with manufacturers slicing prices nearly 50 percent. Winter is the time when electronics producers are supposed to make the most profit, but when it comes to 3D TV, manufacturers could have just read the writing on the wall.

And now companies are going to extremes to move product, the Wall Street Journal reports:

Samsung Electronics Co., the world's biggest TV maker by sales, sent a jolt through the industry in the fall when it started offering at warehouse retailer Costco Wholesale Corp. a $900 rebate on a bundle that included some movies, two pairs of glasses and a 55-inch, ultrathin 3-D set with a Blu-ray player, bringing the total to less than $3,000. The TV alone is listed at $3,400 on Samsung's website.

Here's why 3D TV isn't selling.

1. Too Focused on Proprietary Hardware

Everyone wants consumers to buy their special 3D TV and the exclusive 3D glasses that only work on said TV. Of course, the manufacturers' goals here are making as much money as possible by selling every a la carte and promoting brand loyalty because the consumer is spending a ton of money on a specific technology.

In the long run, however, the focus on proprietary hardware here breeds contempt among consumers. As I discussed earlier this year, exclusive 3D TV technology won't work for a few reasons, namely that buying glasses for a family of four is expensive, but buying glasses incompatible with future TVs is ridiculous. At launch, the Panasonic TV started at $2,999.95 and each pair of glasses at $149.95. Consumers are recognizing this issue, especially with Apple (APPL) TV, Google (GOOG) TV, and literally dozens of alternatives to traditional television available today.

A much wiser move would be to agree to a 3D TV standard, not unlike VHS or 1080p, which would allow companies to focus on making the best hardware/software package as opposed to making their 3D technology. As with VHS, companies are going to have to feel the financial pain (and, in this case, flaccid sales) before they actually agree on a standard.

2. Lackluster 3D Content
To make the 3D TV financial commitment, consumers actually need something worthwhile to watch:

The mega-hit James Cameron's Avatar could have ushered in the home 3D revolution, but the only way to get 3D Avatar is by buying the Panasonic 3D TV equipment -- which is great for Panasonic, but awful for 3D TV progress overall. It will probably be available a la carte next year, but the movie would already be two years old and, more than likely, not as compelling to consumers.

In a parallel business, mobile manufacturers like Nintendo (NTYDO) and Sharp (SRP) already have glasses-less 3D on deck and plenty of content to go along with it. As more consumers embrace consuming content on the mobile, it's unclear how important 3D TV will be in 2011 -- especially if the manufacturers don't create a standard and the content to go with it.

Photo courtesy of racheocity // CC 2.0