The Future of Television Viewing: 3D vs. 4K

The evolution of technology in televisions has escalated dramatically over the last few years. From HD to flat screens to 3D, there are now a variety of options for consumers where most of us can remember there only being a set that was as big as a piece of furniture with a dial to change the channel. These days, a consumer needs to walk into an electronics store with an up-to-date education and one of today's most recent TV trends is 3D TV. In theory, what's not to like? The picture jumps off the screen and makes it appear as though viewers have an NFL stadium in their living rooms. 3D seems like a really good idea, but the problem lies within the well-oiled machine that is the television industry.

First of all, watching TV in HD is a technology that has been adopted by about 60 percent of television viewers. Regardless of the majority of Americans watching in HD, a majority of ads are still not shot in native HD - only about 25 percent of all spots aired on national broadcast and cable TV are in HD. For 3D to be widely adopted, ads and programming would have to be available in 3D, which they typically are not as of now. In fact, ESPN, which created a separate channel dedicated to 3D viewing, recently announced that the network would be shutting it down due to limited consumer adoption of the technology. An even more difficult barrier to break down is that 3D TVs are still very expensive, as is the case with most new gadgets.

On the horizon is 4K TV or what is being referred to as "ultra HD." Like 3D, 4K is expensive for the consumer, with prices starting around $2,000 for a TV, but the picture quality is so clear that it appears as though it's 3D; as if it's popping off the screen but you don't have to wear glasses to watch. For 4K to be successful, the timing and rate of consumer and network adoption will need to progress hand-in-hand. For this instance to occur, 4K content will need to be available everywhere and the sets will need to be affordable. The problem remains, however, that it will take a rather larger investment by the networks, as well as advertisers, to be able to distribute and produce 4K content. As previously mentioned, a large portion of networks and advertisers have yet to adapt to HD which was introduced back in 2009.

Unlike other industries in which it has been easy to evolve, like music for example, the television viewing experience cannot change so effortlessly. The unfortunate reality is that technology is advancing faster than the average consumers can adapt to it. Unless there is a surge in early adopters and the newest and most advanced televisions somehow become the standard, thus lowering the price of the set, the best direction a consumer can take is to purchase what is most affordable. In my opinion, 3D is dead in the water; and while the verdict is still out on 4K's survival, it's unlikely to really take off unless it starts being used in everyday broadcast.