NPD: ESPN 3D Shutdown Portends Format’s Death Knell in the Home18 Jun, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Disney’s decision to shutter ESPN 3D at the end of the year suggests the format’s days in home entertainment are numbered
ESPN’s decision to shutter ESPN 3D at the end of the year due to low consumer interest represents a major blow to 3DTV since sports was considered an ideal genre for the format, according to The NPD Group.
When ESPN launched the 3D network three years ago, the consensus was it would appeal to a segment of enthusiasts as well as a larger group who would likely use it for special event viewing, according to Ben Arnold, director of industry analysis with The NPD Group.
In a June 18 blog, Arnold says the fact that the global leader in sports television is exiting 3D after investing considerable resources researching viewing habits and making the channel available is a blow to the future of the 3D hardware and content ecosystem.
ESPN’s decision comes at a time when sales of 3D-compatible TVs are up 5% year-over-year, which is down considerably from a 32% spike in unit sales in 2012, according to NPD. There are about 12 million 3DTVs in U.S. homes, with 3D Blu-ray players accounting for a third of 3D-compatible home entertainment devices.
Regardless, the research group said that just 14% of consumers expect to buy a 3DTV this year, which is down from 25% measured two years ago. More disconcerting is the fact that consumer awareness of 3D’s availability as a TV feature is down 9% from 50% awareness in 2011.
From ESPN’s perspective, interest in watching sports in 3D has waned. According to the study, just 56% of fans are interested in watching events in 3D, down from 70% in 2011.
“The discontinuation of ESPN 3D isn’t exactly 3D’s death knell, but with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, it might be time to warm up the bus,” Arnold wrote.