You may remember back in 2009, Avatar hit theaters and blew people's minds with its effects and immersive 3D technology. It was a movie people told you that you HAD to see in 3D. Forget Spy-Kids 3D: Game Over! The James Cameron flick blazed a trail both in theaters and home release, arguably giving rise to the 3D television bandwagon, which brought what was then only available in theaters into your own home. The novelty wore out pretty quick, though, and eight years later, 3D TV is officially dead. In your face.
LG and Sony have officially announced that they will not be producing any TV sets with 3D technology in 2017, and the two tech giants were the last two TV-makers who were still building their sets with 3D capabilities. Companies like Verizon, TCL, and Sharp all pulled out of the 3D game after lackluster sales of 3D sets driven by a rapidly dwindling public interest. Now, no one will be making any 3D TVs in 2017, making the format as good as extinct.
There are a couple reasons as to why 3D TVs is going the way of the...Beta Max Player; that was a fad, right? Sales of the sets have rarely ever been booming, despite decent earnings on the theatrical side. According to a study done in 2012, 3D TVs only accounted for 23% of all television-related sales, and that number definitely hasn't skyrocketed since. If you take into account that most 3D TVs simply used 3D as an optional feature on what were perfectly good regular TV's, then that number becomes even less impressive. 3D came as an afterthought when it came time to purchase a new set for the living room. The all-around lack of original scripted TV in native 3D format didn't help.
Another huge reason for the decline of the set was the lack of interest from buyers. A big part of that is that 3D requires the wearing of specific glasses to fully experience the image onscreen. These glasses are annoying to wear while just sitting in a movie theater; who wants to wear cumbersome glasses while in their own home? We have to also consider the fact that 3D very rarely actually adds to the experience of watching a movie (Doctor Strange is a recent exception, but those exceptions are few and far between). For many people, watching 3D movies leaves them with headaches or in extreme cases nausea. It's not something everyone wants to go through just to make it seem like the action is coming slightly at them.
3D TV started to come to prominence around the same time as streaming, which has essentially risen to dominate the way that we digest media nowadays. Watching a 3D movie requires the physical media of a Blu-ray disc. While apps like Netflix do have 3D options, that is only for a small selection of films in their collection and not really worth it.
Plus, I don't think it's a giant coincidence that the complete lack of Avatar sequels since 2009 has helped people stay interested in the format, regardless of how many films James Cameron is promising. But if those follow-up adventures are indeed as visually groundbreaking as the original, expect companies to fire up the old 3D TV-making machines anew.
Now that 3D TV's are (perhaps temporarily) out the door, the TV industry is keeping its focus on 4K, HDR, and smart features. Whether these are just fads as well remains to be seen but they are certainly more accessible than 3D. Will the new burgeoning technology of virtual reality offer enough immersion that it has a longer shelf life than its more limited predecessor?