TV makers bet on 3-D

LAS VEGAS — This is supposedly the year 3-D television becomes the hot new thing: Updated sets and disc players are coming out, and 3-D cable channels are in the works. But it’s not clear the idea will reach out and grab mainstream viewers.

Samsung Consumer Electronics President Tim Baxter shows off flat screen technology at the Samsung news conference during the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

Samsung Consumer Electronics President Tim Baxter shows off flat screen technology at the Samsung news conference during the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

LAS VEGAS — This is supposedly the year 3-D television becomes the hot new thing: Updated sets and disc players are coming out, and 3-D cable channels are in the works. But it’s not clear the idea will reach out and grab mainstream viewers.

Besides having to spring for expensive new TVs, people would have to put on awkward special glasses to give the picture the illusion of depth. That limits 3-D viewing to times when viewers can sit down and focus on a movie or show.

It’s one thing to put on 3-D glasses in a theatre, but “at home, you’re with other people in the living room, running to the kitchen and doing other things,” said Greg Ireland of the research firm IDC.

Unfazed by the potential hang-ups, the biggest TV makers began revealing their 3-D models Wednesday before the official opening of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Tim Baxter, president of Samsung Electronics Co.’s consumer division, said in an interview that 10 to 14 per cent of the roughly 35 million TVs sold in the U.S. this year will be 3-D-capable.

Samsung is determined to make 3-D a big feature on its more expensive TVs this year. It’s teaming with DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. to make the Blu-ray 3-D version of the movie “Monsters vs. Aliens” an exclusive for buyers of Samsung’s 3-D TVs.

LG Electronics Inc. said it will introduce 47-inch and 55-inch flat-panel TVs with 3-D capabilities in May. LG and Samsung are among the companies that plan to sell 3-D Blu-ray disc players later in the year.

LG didn’t announce exact prices for its new sets. But Tim Alessi, director of product development at LG Electronics USA, said 3-D TV sets will likely cost US$200 to $300 more than comparable flat-panel sets without 3-D capabilities, which already run more than $1,000.

Announcements of 3-D TV sets were also expected from Sony Corp. and Panasonic Corp.