Tuesday, 6 April 2010

3D television just a far-off dream for most Australians

While sitting in my lounge room last night enjoying less-than-broadband speeds at the price of a 1.5 Gbps connection, SBS News mentioned that 3D televisions would be available in Australia from as early as next month. 

The big problem is that there is no 3D content broadcast by Australian providers. But SBS may have other plans.

According to the Australian newspaper, the SBS is considering broadcasting a FIFA World Cup soccer match in 3D. The Australian also reported some findings of an Ipsos survey:
This week, a study from research firm Ipsos found 70 per cent of Australians were aware of 3D TV and 22 per cent said they would "definitely or probably" buy one. "There is definite excitement about 3D TV, which is interesting considering 53 per cent of the respondents haven't seen a 3D movie, let alone 3D TV," Ipsos executive director of media Mark Grunert said.
Movies and computer games are expected to drive demand for 3D televisions. But where does it all end? And is it really that simple?

This is how I have reacted to the slow implementation of new technologies:
  1. After paying more than $350 per typical month for home telephone, Foxtel, broadband, two mobile phones  (which included an iMate JAS-JAM - like a pretend iPhone) a few years ago, I ditched the mobiles and Foxtel. I also waited to see what would happen with the "Big Box". The result has been a more peaceful life (people called my mobile when they wanted something from me, rarely did I need it for me). Now, when I am away from my desk - well, now I am really offline. Try it sometime!
  2. An inexpensive Bush digital set-top box fixed the old television problem, and a PC to TV adaptor means I can watch anything on the Net on my old TV - as long as the rest of my suburb is asleep because the broadband is always dialup at peak periods.
  3. I am glad I didn't spend a cent on a big television now that 3D TVs are on the way. I will either save a fortune buying an "old"  new flatscreen TV or a second-hand unit.
Assuming Australians are rational economic actors, it would simply be irrational to purchase a 3D television unless you were either very rich, or you happen to really need to see soccer in 3D. The figures from Ipsos certainly suggest that Australians are interested in the technology (even if they haven't seen a 3D movie), but will they pay for it?

My guess is they will not. And why? Because in terms of communications technologies, Australia is now caught in the past. Convergence is largely ignored and the traditional boundaries continue to dictate the structure of the media communications industry.
It is obvious that competition is the answer to the current state of the industry. But this doesn't just mean Telstra. The ABC and SBS are the only providers delivering full-length television shows via the Net. There is no incentive for the other networks to do so.

Competition requires a number of competitors. If the boundaries which currently separate the traditional communications industries in Australia were removed, there would instantly be more competitors and therefore more competition. No longer could the old players dominate their peculiar and protected markets.

3D television provides an opportunity for the old rules to be re-written. Television networks, pay TV providers and telecommunications companies could all compete with movie-makers and even computer game companies once the new game is played.

But until policy-makers choose to recognise that each new communications technology is another nail in the old game, policy will be the reason Australians are still dreaming about watching affordable 3D televisions in the years to come, and not a lack of demand.

Creative Commons License Except where indicated otherwise, Le Flâneur Politique by Michael de Percy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License. Based on a work at politicalscience.com.au. Background image ©Depositphotos.com/ @redshinestudio