Onward and Upward for 3D Blu-ray

I wasn’t surprised to see some of the encouraging numbers for 3D Blu-ray which were reported this week in Home Media Magazine. With Avatar, consumer interest in 3D Blu-ray jumped and the phenomenal success of this title has encouraged studios to keep 3D front and center for other tentpole titles.

Consumers seem to be ‘getting’ the promise of 3D to transform their home entertainment experience.

Indeed, data from NPD DisplaySearch shows a steady climb in 3D-ready TV sales. In the fourth quarter of this year, 25.7% of global LCD TV panel shipments were 3D, up from just 14.2% in the fourth quarter of 2011. Shipments have steadily gone up all year, with 3D accounting for 15.2% of global LCD TV panel shipments in the first quarter of this year, 21% in the second quarter and 23.5% in the third quarter.

Yet the keyword in the first sentence is 3D-ready. HD-ready TVs were touted and sold in years before the HD broadcast changeover, appealing to consumers who wanted to ‘futureproof’ their technology purchase, before the HD content was widely available or consumed. The number which really counts, the number of people who played 3D content at home, isn’t included in this survey.

Yet we can get some sense of what consumers’ interest really is by taking a peek at the ratio of 3D unit sales of total title sales. And these numbers are more informative:

  • Prometheus, in its first week in stores, generated 25% of its unit sales (and 33% of Blu-ray sales) from the 3D version (which, it should be noted, came with an extra bonus disc to encourage sales).
  • Prometheus (Collector’s Edition) with Blu-ray 3D, regular Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy (iTunes and UltraViolet) accounted for 26% of the title’s total consumer spend.
  • Disney’s The Avengers debut week included 23% of its unit sales from the 3D version. Avengers 3D Blu-ray sales: 32% week one, 33% week two and 28% in week three.
  • For the week ending October 14, 15% of purchasers opted with the 3D version of Thor.
  • For Captain America: The First Avenger, 13% of total unit sales for the same week.
  • For its first week, Titanic had a 37% 3D unit share, accounting for 45% of all Blu-ray sales of the title. For three of the five weeks the Titanic Blu-ray has been on the charts, more than 44% of Blu-ray sales were of the 3D edition.
  • A month after its Sept. 10 debut, Titanic had 29% of unit sales go to 3D.

This presents a different side of the story. Where there is a ‘value-seeking’ aspect to such sales (why buy an ‘ordinary’ disc set when the 3D version is available — futureproof your Blu-ray library!), these numbers indicate to me that 3D is being picked up and used by first adopters and quite possibily edging into the family market, particularly the teen action market segment.

As Tom Adams, senior principal analyst with U.S. Media put it, “People love 3D. It’s not surprising to me. Household penetration has gotten fairly substantial, fairly quickly and, of course, if you’ve got one, you’re going to want to purchase content for it.

Like any new technology, there may be modest hiccups in adoption, market penetration and use, but it’s hard to imagine that 3D won’t be continuing to grow, both theatrically and on Blu-ray.

“Disruptive new technologies can take time to work their way into our lives. The digital revolution is never unanimous. But, in a very short period of time, 3D screens are populating a vast array of devices which will bring the world and everything in it up-close-and-personal to the viewer,” said Ray Zone, Society Historian and author of ‘3D Revolution.’

I can think of more than a few titles which I’d like to see at home in 3D. Welcome to the 3D home entertainment revolution!