The holiday season was supposed to launch the year of the 3-D TV, or so we thought. 2010 saw a slew of 3-D movies reach box office success, led by Avatar, and with consumer spending on its way up, 3-D TVs were going to be all the rage. Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) announced a partnership with Panasonic and dedicated a relatively large portion of its floor space to 3-D. Plus, who could miss the commercials for 3-D on every possible show?

But the industry got a little bit ahead of itself and sales never really took off, resulting in falling prices. The problem is, there wasn't really any reason to believe consumers had an incentive to make the 3-D switch this early in the game. There were just too many factors working against it.

  • Limited television programming: ESPN 3-D has been around for months, but that's really the only major channel available for 3-D viewers. Discovery (Nasdaq: DISCK), IMAX (Nasdaq: IMAX), and Sony (NYSE: SNE) will launch their joint venture channel early this year, but two channels aren't enough to make me run out and buy a 3-D TV.
  • A saturated HD market: After shelling out good money for a big-screen HDTV over the past few years, folks just don't have the money for another massive TV purchase.
  • Time is of the essence: It took years for HDTV to hit the masses. It required consumers to make an investment in TVs, networks to make the HD switch, and cable operators to make channels available. 3-D won't ever be as prevalent as HD, but it will still take time to make the switch.

If we were expecting 3-D to revolutionize our lives or bump holiday sales, maybe we were expecting too much too quickly. Nevertheless, the 3-D revolution is still alive. RealD (NYSE: RLD) is continuing the push, partnering with Samsung to develop an LCS-based RDZ 3-D display technology. With more and more content coming out all the time, the switch will happen, just more slowly than some would like.

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