SANTA CLARA, CALIF., January 4, 2011The availability of 3D content will remain the greatest determinant of the value of 3D TVs to consumers and as a result its achievable premium in TV sets. 3D TVs were launched with much fanfare at IFA 2009, but a year ago at CES, the first real products reached the market. Since then, shipments have made steady, although slightly disappointing, progress. Global shipments in 2010 were expected to total 3.2 million worldwide, according to the DisplaySearch Quarterly TV Design and Features Report .
TV manufacturers really got ahead of themselves in 2010, and they forgot that a TV is a tool to watch content, said Paul Gray, Director of TV Electronics Research at DisplaySearch. People will only buy a 3D TV if there is enough content to watch, and in 2010, there simply was not enough 3D content available. As a result, only 4% of TVs 40 and larger had 3D capabilities.
Despite this, competitive pressures in the industry are rapidly making 3D a compulsory feature. DisplaySearch forecasts that nearly18 million 3D sets will be shipped in 2011, rising to over 91 million in 2014.
TV set makers are strongly committed to 3D, and they expect their strong lead to encourage content creators to follow, Gray added. Weakness in the North American TV market was largely to blame for slow 3D shipments, although our research shows that only 40 3D Blu-ray disc titles were available across all genres at the end of 2010.
Figure 1: Forecast 3D TV Unit Shipments (000s) by Region
Source: DisplaySearch Q410 Quarterly TV Design and Features Report 
The DisplaySearch Quarterly TV Design and Features Report  also examines systems with 3D passive glasses, which launched in China in December 2010 and are expected to be featured at CES. These are being offered as an alternative to the existing shutter glasses types, which have significant drawbacks, including high costs, weight, the need for re-charging, and limited interoperability.
What is disturbing, though, is the prospect of a format war, said Gray. It would be very damaging and consumers would opt to wait if they sense obsolescence, especially when they are already cautious about spending.
Other key findings from the Q4 report include:
- In the global broadcast environment, South African countries have opted to jump straight to the latest DVB-T2 broadcast standard. DisplaySearch forecasts that almost 20 million TV sets will ship with DVB-T2 decoding in 2015.
- 21% of all TVs shipped in 2010 are forecast to have internet connectivity. This category is forecast to grow to over 122 million in 2014, with emerging markets providing a significant portion of the growth as broadband adoption surges.
- TV set makers are addressing the new opportunities in emerging markets for flat panel TVs, with TV products being launched that are customized to consumers in these regions. Low power consumption, resilience to electricity supply failure, robust reception, and different local preferences are being actualized in new TV models.
The DisplaySearch Quarterly TV Design and Features Report  is a quarterly update of the rapid shifts in TV feature development. The 200+ page report examines and forecasts video processor and signal processing IC market development, including 120/100 and 200/240 Hz frame rates and market shares for major IC vendors. In addition, the report features forecasting for MPEG-4 decoding and the digital broadcast environment around the world, including a forecast for DVB-T2; TV connectivity, such as wired and wireless networked TVs; LED backlighting; 3D capability and implementation; remote controls and chassis design; and power consumption. The report also outlines national digital broadcast timetables for 91 countries, and forecasts the shipment of TV sets by digital broadcast standard or connected TV by region.
To learn more about 3D products, content, sales, gaming, and accessories based on research by The NPD Group, visit http://www.3dmarkettrends.com/ .