It was a relatively short-lived home entertainment trend, but a trend it was. You could even argue that 3D TVs are now better known for their swift descent into failure than for any benefits they provided while they were in their so-called heyday.
While 3D technology has been around for a long time in cinemas (it’s been around since the 1950s!), its advancement into our homes began around the turn of the previous decade when it was enjoying a resurgence in cinema largely thanks to the blockbuster sci-fi film Avatar.22
At first, 3D TV looked to be the next big thing. By 2011, around 24 million 3D-enabled TVs were being sold around the world; that figure rose to 41 million in 2012.23 In the USA, about 23% of TVs bought in 2013 had 3D capabilities.22
Television broadcasters around the world were also starting to broadcast live sport in 3D, including the:23
As quickly as it all began, 3D television started grinding to halt.
In 2013, broadcasters around the world – including the BBC in the UK and Foxtel in Australia – announced they were dropping 3D. In the USA, the largest broadcaster of 3D sports content, ESPN 3D, was closed down.
The 3D trend is also starting to slow in cinemas, with the number of films released in 3D dropping steadily since 2011.
So, why the sudden death of 3D TVs?
One reason cited by broadcasters when discontinuing their 3D programming was the lack of interest from the general public.23 The annoying, bulky and expensive glasses required to watch a 3D TV also played a role in the declining popularity. As of 2017, LG and Sony (the two major manufacturers of 3D TVs) ended their production of the doomed technology.22