Imagine riding a roller coaster. That’s how viewing The Polar Express on a 3D cinema screen felt as the train sped through gorges and swayed over mountains en route to the North Pole. And hear the screams and feel the fear as several hundred rats surge over the edge of a stage and towards you in Disney theme park’s showing of Honey, I Shrunk the Audience.
Will 3D TV be a heart-pounding experience like 3D cinema?
3D tv trials have already taken place in the UK, Japan, and Brazil (among others). And you may have your own views….
Marketing new technologies is difficult. The first challenge is to understand audience needs and purchase drivers and barriers.
Let’s consider potential barriers and drivers to 3D TV?
1. Wearing nerdy glasses :
Stereoscopy is the most widely accepted method for recording and delivering 3D video. This requires capturing stereo images in the right place to show convincing scene depth on a screen. The images are then coded for broadcast and viewing. In the UK, Sky used alternate lines of pixels for transmission. Viewing therefore requires purpose-built 3D televisions. However, at the low-cost end of the spectrum, you’ll need polarised glasses to view the images.
2. Cost :
In the UK, Sky used the existing HD infrastructure which means that some 1.6m+ homes (Oct 2009) had compatible set-top boxes. In the long run new 3D compatible tvs will be required. While several manufacturers have started producing sets with autostereoscopic displays. These will eliminate the need for glasses, though inevitably will be higher cost and risk lessening demand.
3. Risk of technology redundancy :
The answer is more likely to be when rather than if. The first tv sets are likely to need users to wear glasses before autostereoscopic screens become available. Further, 3D blu-ray and 3D tv broadcasts are likely to use different technologies. This means that standardisation or multiple technologies will needed within tv receivers to allow viewing of both blu-ray dvds and tv broadcasts on the same tv. While this may not be an issue for early adopters it will be a concern to attract the masses.
4. Safety :
Watching 3D movies risks stomach churn. No doubt this will have implications for audience trials. Clear warnings and guidance will help mitigate potential issues and allay fears.
5. Ease of use :
The more complicated a system is to use, the greater the barrier to view. Therefore, easy-to-use and fool-proof equipment, or easy-to-plug-in add-ons to current equipment, will maximise viewing.
6. Experiential benefits :
The key will be the quality of the experience versus the cost. Initial noises sound positive. In the UK, the chief broadcast engineer at BSkyB, Chris Johns suggests that 3D could herald a step change in the same way that colour did versus black and white. Offering features that don’t deliver visible benefits and offer good value, risk failure.
Surely the equipment manufacturers, film, tv, and game production companies and broadcasters will have learned this lesson. The demise of Betamax and the original BSB digital broadcasting company is testimony that ‘quality’ alone does not necessarily ‘sell’.
An equally big challenge lies with the content producers. Film or programme quality will be all. Watching a newsreader in 3D is unlikely to be as compelling as ducking out-of-the-way when a football comes hurtling towards you.
The challenge will also be to find which other genres and experiences will work well in 3D and draw audiences. The movie makers are already on the case and a series of 3D films will be reaching cinema screens soon. There will also be content limitations – perhaps to the times that some want to ride a roller coaster!
1. New technologies are often a collection of features trying to meet a need. Thus the most common reason new technology fails is because it fails to meet a need or a need simply doesn’t exist. So use research to understand audience needs, and drivers and barriers to buy. And if the need doesn’t exist you need to figure how to create that need.
2. There will always be some fear of new technology or accessibility issues. To maximise demand start by identifying potential early adopters, and focus your marketing on them. Communicate the benefits of the new technology while also addressing potential fears. Also provide free trial experiences to overcome affordability and access issues.
3. There will also be advantages for first movers. So think big and test your ideas along the way. In addition consider how the market might segment beyond an initial product launch. By imagining the future and planning for the future today will help you lead the market and maximise both short and long-term market share.
4. As regards sustaining long-term interest in 3D TV, tv and movie makers will need to think beyond roller-coaster movies. Now what about making nerdy specs cool?