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3DTV Tickles Interest But Most Consumers Aren't Sold Yet: Survey

People are interested in 3DTV for certain special events and programming -- and would expect to pay an average of $20 more per month to get 3D service from their pay-TV provider -- but issues including the hassle of wearing glasses threaten to dampen adoption, according to a new survey.

Of consumers in the market for a new TV set, 29% said they would consider purchasing a 3DTV set in the next 12 months, meaning the majority are currently expecting to stick with conventional 2D televisions, according to research conducted by Nielsen that was commissioned by the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing.

In fact, purchase interest among those planning to buy a new TV in the next year actually decreased after they saw a 3DTV demonstration, experienced the glasses and learned more about product costs. The survey of 425 consumers, who first watched a 30-minute reel of 3DTV programming, was conducted in June and July 2010.

That suggests that most people "will wait until these challenges are addressed and there is more content available before opening their wallets," said Frank Stagliano, Nielsen's executive vice president and general manager of TV Primary Research.

The most commonly cited reasons for lack of interest in purchasing include the cost of the set (68%), having to wear the 3D glasses (57%) and not enough 3D programming (44%).

The need to wear glasses to view 3D content continues to be a big stumbling block. Overall, 89% of those surveyed felt the 3D glasses would constrain their multitasking activities, and 45% expressed concern that wearing the glasses was uncomfortable.

"I was surprised by the resistance to the glasses," Stagliano said. "We knew it was an issue but it really upset people."

About 77% agreed that 3DTV was better suited to special events, such as movies or sporting events, as opposed to everyday viewing. "People love it more for special events than regular viewing," CTAM president and CEO Char Beales said.

There's particularly high interest in 3DTV from gamers and moviegoers. Roughly 42% of those surveyed said they were interested in playing games in 3D and 71% of hard-core gamers wanted to play in 3D. "Gaming is an immersive experience," Beales said.

Other findings: 57% of viewers agreed 3DTV made them feel like they were "part of the action" and 48% felt it made them more engaged with what they were watching; while 47% said 3DTV would make them watch programs they wouldn't normally watch.

Survey respondents also indicated they expect to pay more for a 3D television service. When asked how much they would be willing to pay to add 3D service to their current TV service plan, on average consumers were willing to pay $20 extra monthly, but reported a range of $5 to $40 per month. "Right now it's difficult to gauge the incremental value" of a 3D programming service, Stagliano said.

The top genres consumers are interested in viewing in 3D ranged from broad categories such as sports, movies and action/adventure programming to niche genres such as nature and animal shows, travel, sci-fi and music concerts.

The 425 randomly selected participants first took an online survey that assessed their prior familiarity and experience with 3D content. They then watched the 30-minute clip reel of 3DTV content followed by additional survey questions about their reactions to the experience.

In addition, Nielsen conducted 12 focus groups of five individuals, including some families, interviewed over a four-day period. Those qualitative interviews were conducted at the CBS TV City Media Lab in Las Vegas, housed in a condominium that closely imitated a 3DTV home viewing environment.

According to Beales, the survey is the first with a large group of consumers who watched 3D programming and experienced it firsthand before they were interviewed.

The 30-minute reel was a compilation of sports, nature shows, concerts and a movie. That included a Kenny Chesney concert; a clip from NBC's Chuck; segments from National Geographic Channel and Discovery Communications; a FIFA World Cup match; golf, basketball and X Games clips from ESPN; Sony Pictures Entertainment's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs; and highlights from select videogames.