When 3DTV was worth talking about

Back in 2010, we made a big jump into YouTube videos. It was a fairly new thing for us, and honestly it was a fairly new thing for everyone. While YouTube had been around for several years by that point, it was just getting to the point where you could produce decent quality and watch it full screen.

Back then, the big story was 3D TV. DIRECTV jumped in with both feet,  and every manufacturer competed to get a system on the market as soon as possible. They thought that 3D was going to be the next big thing after HD.

And of course, they were way off base. Before I explain why, take a look at this video we produced back in those days.

Truth be told it’s not that bad. It looks a little silly by today’s standards but it’s held up pretty well. Back then it was hard to get links in videos, so here is part 2 and part 3 if you want to keep watching.

3D TV had everything going for it. There was broad manufacturer support, a good selection of content, and the backing of the world’s largest pay TV company. What could go wrong?

People didn’t want it.

People didn’t want to wear goofy glasses in a darkened room. They didn’t want the headaches that came with it. They absolutely didn’t want to pay extra for 3D content. Not only that, but there was a recession on and people didn’t want to have to choose between upgrading a perfectly good TV and making a mortgage payment.

See, a lot of folks had just upgraded to HD not that long ago. It was a fairly expensive upgrade if you think about it. The average 37″ TV cost about $1500 in 2006 and that seemed like a bargain. Just a decade earlier they were $30,000. Of course I’m talking about the TV you could get today for $149 at the local big box store. But if you think about average rates of inflation and all that means people paid the equivalent of about $1900 for a TV and just four years later they were being told there was something newer and better.

Except, it wasn’t better and people saw that pretty much instantly. I got one of those 3D TVs in 2011 myself, and I think I used it for 3D maybe twice. After that I got totally bored with the technology and put the glasses away for good. If you tried 3D back then you probably did the same.

What’s the lesson?

3D TV won’t be the last time that an industry tries to push an “improvement” out to people that people don’t want to pay for. I think that TV makers did learn a lesson though, because the rollouts of the next two big technologies, 4K and HDR, have been a lot softer. You’re just now seeing growth in those two things, and it’s mostly driven by low cost. In other words, a buyer saying “why not.” The $1,500 TV is still there, but it’s a lot more full featured and you honestly can get some very reasonable deals now under $500 for 4K HDR.

But back in 2010… it was a bad deal for everyone.


About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.