Global Stereo-3D Video Market Flourishes Across Cinema, Home Video and TV VoD Platforms

Popularity of Stereo-3D Increases Despite of Higher Prices and Limited Amount of Content

by Anton Shilov
12/26/2012 | 08:13 PM

The global stereoscopic 3D (S3D) video consumer market is thriving in a dynamic environment marked by clear and discernible growth across its major platforms, including cinema, home video and pay-TV video on demand, with international markets continuing to make major contributions to the industry, according to an IHS report.


Worldwide metrics are on the rise for S3D technology as a whole. The number of S3D screens is up fourfold over a period of three years, while stereo-3D box office climbed in the double digits from 2010 to 2011. The S3D home-video market is also showing strong growth, bucking the overall trend of a declining physical video market, with U.S spending on Blu-ray 3D nearly doubling in 2012 from last year’s levels. More S3D TV channels worldwide are likewise now available, including one just launched in China, with plenty of potential for expansion in the years ahead for S3D video-on-demand service.

“The continuing expansion of the industry is especially significant when one considers that S3D is but a small niche of overall digital viewing, and that consumers have to shell out considerably more money for S3D products, which are priced at a premium and not necessarily an easy sell in these economically uncertain times,” said Tony Gunnarsson, analyst for video at IHS Screen Digest.

S3D Cinema Shows Growth in Both Revenue and Number of New Screens

The number of S3D screens worldwide has grown dramatically in three years, rising by more than a factor of four from approximately 9000 screens at the end of 2009 to 43000 by the Q3 2012. The U.S. continues to have the lion’s share of sterei-3D screens, followed by China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany. S3D is stabilizing in mature cinema markets like the U.S., where its share of the overall box office is no longer growing rapidly compared to the earlier years of the format or in other countries where stereoscopic 3D cinema is just taking off.

Global S3D box-office revenue hit $7.0 billion in 2011, up 16% from $6.0 billion in 2010. S3D accounted for 22% of total world box-office receipts in 2011, up from 19% the previous year. International markets continue to account for a rising share of the worldwide stereo-3D box office: 73% in 2011, up from 66% in 2010 and 54% in 2009, with the balance held by North America.

S3D revenue prospects rely on the quality of the S3D film slate, and the wealth – or relative dearth – of titles during a particular period could spell a big difference in S3D revenue prospects in the mature cinema markets.

S3D Home Video Defies Overall Down Trend of Physical Video Market

In the S3D home-video segment, the U.S. continues to make up the largest market for Blu-ray 3D, equivalent to 51% of global BD 3D spending. While both value and volume for traditional physical video are decreasing, BD 3D is an exception to the trend, with forecasts showing strong growth even out to 2016. Spending by U.S. consumers on the medium is up 94% this year from 2011 levels, to $220 million, with BD 3D unit sales set to climb 105%, to 9.9 million units.

“Despite the relatively small market for BD 3D, the format plays an important role for overall physical video. Bly-ray 3D is already being marketed as the ultimate home-video experience, and studios are pricing S3D home-video well above Blu-ray 2D versions,” explained Mr. Gunnarsson.

Growth is also forecast for the BD S3D home-video market in the three big European markets of the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

In homes, S3D penetration is dependent on households upgrading to S3D TVs as well as S3D BD players and the associated S3D glasses. S3D features are becoming a standard on high-end HDTV sets and BD players in the forecast period to 2016, resulting in a growing segment of households in developed markets being ripe for S3D movies viewing.

Trends in S3D Broadcast and VoD Show Promise

A total of 37 unique dedicated S3D channels have been launched worldwide since 2010, plus another 38 dedicated S3D event broadcasts. Nonetheless, S3D TV launches slowed considerably in 2012, due to uncertainty about investing in, and maintaining, dedicated linear S3D channels. On the plus side were the positive developments on programming, such as the formation of 3Net, a joint venture among Sony, Imax and Discovery to focus on S3D output including documentaries and other niche genres.

Some pay-TV operators have also sought to provide S3D movies on a video-on-demand basis. Movies and documentaries are the basis for S3D VoD, but the overall limited slate as well as the 30% higher price of S3D video-on-demand (VoD) movies may serve to discourage some consumers from adopting the service in the short term.

Even so, the S3D VoD market will overcome such obstacles in the years ahead. U.S. consumers, for instance, will spend $76.1 million for S3D VoD by 2016, up from $11.1 million this year. European viewers, meanwhile, will fork out $32.4 million, compared to just $3.5 million during the same period.