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Analyzing the Nielson 3D Study Results

By Neil Schneider

Nielson has received some headline space by putting out a study of what consumers think of 3D.  Here are their key findings:

57% of viewers thought that 3D television made them feel like they were “part of the action”, and 48% described 3D as making them feel more engaged with what they were watching.  Almost half of the consumers studied (47%) said that 3D television would encourage them to watch programs they normally wouldn’t.

Here is some more old news: 42% of respondents cited interest in playing video games in 3D, with 71% of hardcore and regular gamers interested in playing in 3D.  Biggest criticisms included cost (68%), 3D glasses (57%), and limited 3D content (44%).

Nielson 3D Study

Unfortunately, the top headline that other media are focusing on is that consumers show less interest in buying a 3D HDTV after they experience it rather than before.  Here are some important facts that have been largely missed in how the study was done.

100% of the sample is based on content shown in Sony's 3D Experience Lab at CBS Vision TV City.  There were two components: a qualitative and a quantitative setting.  The qualitative setting featured a sample of only fifty (yes 50!) people in a “real-world” living room experience.  The quantitative setting had a larger sample of 400 respondents watching five plus hours of television.  The content was shown in a “theater screening room”, also at the Sony Experience Lab.

Here are the problems.  First, The Sony Experience Lab is just that – the Sony experience.  While Sony puts out quality products, their brand is priced at the higher end, and their line of televisions do not represent all the diverse quality options available from their competitors.  Different glasses, different panel sizes and technologies, and more are all part of the 3D experience that needs to be measured.

I think the movie theater setting was inappropriate for a study like this because it’s not based on the same 3D technology and leaves too much imagination room for what the at-home experience actually is.  It’s also important to elaborate on the content that was shown.  If it was all sports programming, then the value of these results are diminished.  Consumer demand ranks 3D sports third after video games and Blu-ray (according to the original U-Decide Initiative).  As there is no way a movie theater full of people could interactively play with 3D video games, and 3D movies have been available in movie theaters for a long time anyway, what exactly was being shown?

Willingness to Wear 3D Glasses

As demonstrated by the first U-Decide Initiative, 3D sports and traditional 3D broadcasting directly tie in to the glasses problem because viewers like to do other things at the same time while watching (e.g. reading the newspaper).  3D video games and 3D Blu-Ray require 100% of the viewer’s attention, and glasses are not a deterrent in these scenarios.  I think it is very likely that the content being shown for the Nielson study was conducive to the leading objections against 3D, and is therefore skewing the results.

Last but not least, the sample size should have been larger.  The original U-Decide Initiative had 714 respondents, and U-Decide 2010 already has much more than that.  These demand statistics are dangerously misleading given the small sample size, the proprietary testing environment, and the unclear nature of the content being demonstrated and how it was shown.

The good news is despite all the above, here is another trend that everyone missed.  Kakaku ran a study of about 9,000 people, and found that over 30% of respondents are interested in buying a 3D HDTV this year.  Looking at the results of this study, even after demand gets reduced, Nielson also shows that 30% of respondents are interested in buying a 3D HDTV this year.  This makes perfect sense to us because this represents the premium early adopter market, and these figures are still very good despite the caveats.

Let me conclude by saying that U-Decide 2010 is still active, and the preliminary results will be revealed at the 3D Summit at GDC Online in early October.  If you haven’t done so yet, complete a survey so you can qualify for a draw of over fifty prizes.  Yes, you can win a 3D HDTV too!