Viewers fail to turn on to 3D television
Orlins knows everything about producing TV in three dimensions. The ESPN producer has captured the undulating greens of Augusta National at the Masters, and the flying motor bikes of the X-Games for ESPN’s 3D channel.
He can only guess how well his shows resonate with viewers. That’s because US 3D audiences are so small they can’t be measured by Nielsen’s rating system. ‘‘The feedback on the Masters was fast and furious. You could go on Twitter at any moment and there’d be comments coming in every minute about 3D coverage,’’ Orlins says. ‘‘But then you go to some other events where it’s pretty quiet.’’
Orlins’ problem is that fewer than 115,000 American homes are tuned into 3D channels at any one time. That’s less than a hundredth of the 20.2 million-strong audience that saw television’s highest-rated show NCIS this week. 3D viewership is so tiny The Nielsen Co’s methods are unable to capture any meaningful data about viewers’ programming preferences.
ESPN 3D is one of nine 3D channels that launched following the 2009 release of James Cameron’s Avatar. This 3D blockbuster was supposed to change everything. Enthusiastic television executives expected Avatar to spur 3D’s transition to US living rooms. That never happened. Only 2 per cent of TVs in the US are able to show 3D programming.
Why 3D television hasn’t become a craze is a mystery to the industry, considering the wide acceptance of 3D movies at theatres. But 3D content is expensive to produce, and as a result there’s not a lot of it. Some people find the special glasses required for 3D TV uncomfortable. Many wonder whether it’s worth the extra cost. Here’s another awkward point: some people just don’t like 3D.