Panasonic Blames Hollywood for Poor 3D Sales – Ignores Own Culpability

With 3D TV sales for the year falling short of expectations, the consumer electronics industry has already begun playing the blame game. Analysts typically cite the high prices and viewers’ reluctance to wear 3D glasses as major obstacles to consumer acceptance. Meanwhile, 3D hardware manufacturer Panasonic claims that Hollywood is primarily at fault for not making enough good 3D movies that people want to buy or watch on 3D TVs. This seems awfully hypocritical coming from the company that has locked up the 3D format’s most hotly-desired title as a bundle package exclusive that effectively keeps it out of the hands of the majority of interested consumers.

Make no mistake, the high prices and glasses issue are at least somewhat deterrents to mainstream acceptance, but neither is really a dealbreaker, in my opinion. Honestly, the price disparity between 2D and 3D televisions has been largely overblown by the media. 3D sets are not that much more expensive for what is otherwise being offered in the product. You can buy a new Vizio passive 3D model right now for only $500. Prices will continue to sort themselves out in short order, to the point where 3D is merely another feature in a typical television (like frame interpolation or internet apps), not treated like a whole new format in itself. And as much as some people put up a fuss about not wanting to wear glasses to watch TV, the lighter, more comfortable and less expensive glasses used with passive 3D will likely overcome a lot of that resistance, as the passive technology takes a greater presence in the market.

I believe that the greatest obstacle that 3D TV faces is the lack of compelling content that will capture consumers’ interest. To that end, comments made by Panasonic marketing director Andrew Denham aren’t too far off the mark. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Denham said: “Hollywood damaged 3-D by rushing so many badly converted films out in Avatar’s wake. What we need now is the next level, the next Avatar. And that’s a big ask, I think.”

What Denham conveniently fails to acknowledge, of course, is that Panasonic itself will continue to hold the 3D edition of ‘Avatar’ hostage in an exclusive bundle package until at least 2012. While I may not be much of a fan of ‘Avatar’, I certainly recognize the title’s importance to the 3D movement. ‘Avatar’ is the movie that brought 3D back to the public’s consciousness. It’s an enormously popular movie that people want to watch in 3D. For many consumers, ‘Avatar’ is the proverbial “killer app” that will convince them to buy into 3D TV. Yet the title is unavailable except to owners of Panasonic’s own 3D hardware (or those willing to pay exorbitant prices on eBay).

Benham’s comments mirror those made not too long ago by Jeffrey Katzenberg, head of DreamWorks Animation, who said: “We have disappointed our audience multiple times now, and because of that I think there is genuine distrust – whereas a year and a half ago, there was genuine excitement, enthusiasm and reward for the first group of 3-D films that actually delivered a quality experience.” Yet DreamWorks’ own 3D animated titles are likewise locked up in an exclusivity deal with Samsung.

These companies can’t have it both ways – complaining that consumers aren’t being given enough 3D content to buy, while at the same time deliberately withholding some of that desirable content for themselves. The argument is disingenuous at best. These exclusivity deals are doing far more harm than good and need to end now.


  1. All of the above. I see no reason to upgrade my system already for what little is available and/or desirable, and the exclusivity deals turn me off so much that I’m inclined to ignore 3D out of spite alone. Besides, for me at least 3D is kind of fun now and again, for appropriate titles in a theater. I can’t picture myself sitting around my TV with those glasses on, and I know my fiance wouldn’t as she’s usually working on the computer at the same time. Furthermore, my best friend is blind in one eye, so the communal element wouldn’t go very far.

    • Josh Zyber

      I think it more likely that Netflix will drop down to 1D (height only, no width!) for a “lowest quality ever” mandate. 🙂

      VUDU is a much better service than Netflix, and already offers 3D streaming.

  2. Jane Morgan

    We bought a 2D 50″ Panasonic plasma in 2009, the year before all the 3D ones came out. Even knowing that 3D was coming in 2010, we didn’t feel compelled to wait.

    I doubt we will purchase a new TV until, maybe, 5-7 years from now, when everything switches to 4320p. By then, 3D will be built-in for free, even though we’ll probably never use it.

  3. I was in the market for a new TV back in November. I was only looking at Panasonic models. The one I went with the 58″ S2 model, I bought on Amazon for $1100 shipped. The 54″ 3d model, was $2700, the 65″ model, $4000.

    I very much wanted a 3DTV, as I even own 3D blurays of Tangled, Tron and Pihrana, but why would I pay almost 3 times as much for a 4″ smaller model?

    That is the reason I did not buy a 3DTV, nothing to do with content.

  4. Phil

    A big reason is everyone already has a 32 inch or bigger HDTV. Now were just supposed to buy a new TV cause its 3D. Right now i have 5 HDTV, ranging in sizes from 50 to 34. They all work fine, while i may be interested in 3D i already have 5 TV that all work fine. Its like with the home PC, the market is already saturated with good tech, 3D is 5 years late to the party of HDTV sales. The only way it goes up is if they kill off non 3D TV’s and only make Passive 3D TV’s.

  5. Not *QUITE* on-topic, but I was in an Oakley boutique here in San Jose today and they are offering sunglasses with swappable 3-D lenses for about $150. Not sure if they work well with the tvs, but they’re definitely built for an evening at the movies in comfort and higher quality viewing experience. So, some companies are definitely starting to sink at least a little R&D into the “3-D future”, if there indeed is one.

  6. that1guypictures

    The statement that 3D TV’s are sellling poorly doesn’t make sense to me. If you buy practically ANY large flatscreen Sony, Samsung or Panasonic bigger than 50 inches, it’s almost impossible to find a model without 3D. In general ALL HDTV sales are down in a major way year over year for two years now, so a better way of stating it would be…. regardless of dimension, middle to high-end flatscreen televisions are in a major selling slump, and adding 3D and Internet features wasn’t enough to save a steeply declining market.

  7. Andy J

    Well said Josh, I would love to purchase Avatar, Shrek, How to Train a Dragon, Narnia 3D…… BUT NO THEY’RE EXCLUSIVE TO CERTAIN BRANDS IF YOU BUY THEY’RE STUPID 3D TELEVISION! Blame yourself Panasonic!

  8. Warren

    I’m with Andy J, except I’d blame Samsung since pretty much every Dreamworks Animated feature is a damned bundle only purchase. At least Avatar will be available at some point and Narnia is available in 3D on Auguest 30th (best buy even has a pre-order up).

    Can we say this about any Dreamworks Animated title though? No, Monsters Vs Aliens 3D came out what feels like forever ago and there’s no word of it ever being available to actually purchase with out the use of eBay or something.

  9. “These companies can’t have it both ways – complaining that consumers aren’t being given enough 3D content to buy, while at the same time deliberately withholding some of that desirable content for themselves. The argument is disingenuous at best. These exclusivity deals are doing far more harm than good and need to end now.”

    Pitch. Perfect. love the hypocrisy from Dreamworks dude. that studio/sub-studio is the WORST when it comes to providing content to the masses.

  10. Kevin

    Meh. Personally, when it comes to “3D”, be it at the theater or in the home, I think they should just spend more time making sure the movie itself is good, and stop worrying about a mostly pointless add-on.

    In all my movie watching, I have yet to see even one film that’s made me say/think “You know, this is good. But you know what would make it better? Having to wear glasses for the entire run time of the movie that don’t do anything except for give the image an illusion of depth (and possibly give the wearer a splitting headache).” And that includes the pro-3D movies like “Avatar” and “Tron Legacy”.

  11. I’ll get a 3D TV when there is ONE standard. None of this different crap, and glasses that cost a hundred dollars a set. When the TV can show the depth of Avatar without any glasses or without dimming the contrast and brightness of an image I’ll buy into it. But not before. I wear glasses and I will not wear glasses on top of glasses, it’s just the stupidest thing.

    Oh and as long as these companies keep holding back content I will not purchase a 3DTV.

    How stupid is it to try and drum up interest in 3D and then lock down the most popular and worthwhile titles with an exclusivity agreement. Nobody like’s to be told what to do or what to buy and until that practice ends these morons will be sitting around scratching their heads (among other things) wondering what went wrong.

    Complete idiots if you ask me.

    • Josh Zyber

      Tim, do you not own an HDTV because there’s not one standard? We have LCD, Plasma, DLP, LCoS, etc. These are just different display types. It’s the same thing with 3D. There are fixed standards for 3D signal transmission. All Blu-ray 3D is one universal standard that will work on any 3D TV, regardless of display type.

      While there are a couple different forms of broadcast 3D (top/bottom vs. side-by-side), this is really no different than 720p vs 1080i. Again, these are all defined standards. All TVs are required to be compatible with all of these signal types.

      Whether you like 3D at all or want to wear the 3D glasses is another matter. That’s personal preference and your decision to make. But don’t hold back because you’re waiting for a “standard” that’s already in place.

      • That’s not a very good comparison. I have a plasma, and when I go over to my friend, who’s got an LCD, I can still watch movies with him.

        However, if I buy a Panasonic 3DTV, and he buys a Samsung, I can’t bring my glasses over and watch a 3D movie with him. He’ll either have to buy extra pairs of glasses for guests, or I’ll have to buy matching glasses for each of the TV brands my friends have.

        • Josh Zyber

          If you bring your Panasonic remote to your friend’s house, can you use it on his Samsung TV? Of course not. The glasses are an accessory for the TV, just like the remote. And just like you can buy a universal remote that will work with multiple brands of TV, universal 3D glasses are also available from third-party vendors.

          In any case, if you bring a Blu-ray 3D copy of, say, Tron Legacy to the house of a friend who’s equipped for 3D, that disc will play in any Blu-ray 3D player on any 3D TV.

          • That’s a great comparison, because Whenever I have friends and family around watching TV at my house, I have to buy them all an individual remote before we can watch the TV together. 😉

            Personally, I think it’s failing for a whole host of reasons. But I’d put factor number one, at most people only having recently upgraded to flat HD tvs and having no desire/need to upgrade any time soon. So firstly TV buying won’t be as high as a few years back, and then on top of that, you’ve got to convince people that if they are buying, they need something with marginal benefit (if any) and marginal extra expense, vs something that they know will give them 99% of what they want anyway, without extra expense, confusion and awkward usage.

  12. August Lehe

    I am determined to come to 3D reluctantly. Right now I am mainly seeking advice on a 47-inch TV (based upon 10 & 12-foot seating distances). Actually, I will be more likely to watch Frankenheimer’s MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE or SHANE for the upteenth time in 2D than AVATAR in 3D. Friends had me believing Plasma was Dead or Dying and the latest models would HAVE to be LED/LCD. I assume that’s baloney! I JUST want something that will last and give me a really sharp picture! My ‘OLD’ set is an almost burned out 32-inch SONY XBR2 MONITOR…YES, MONITOR!…NO SPEAKERS ‘cept the five I added!