Only 100,000 homes worldwide will be watching 3DTV programming by the end of 2010, rising to 22 million by the end of 2015, representing 1.6% of television homes. Although there are significant growth opportunities beyond this, stereoscopic 3DTV will not be as significant as colour or high-definition, as some have suggested, and will never be adopted by the mass market, Informa Telecoms and Media predicts.

For manufacturers, 3D is a relatively inexpensive way of differentiating their displays and maintaining a price premium. They are investing in major promotions to push their products.

Samsung and Sony each predict that they will sell 2.5 million 3D sets in the next year, while LG and Panasonic estimate a million each.

Sony said recently that it expected the worldwide 3DTV sales to grow to around 100 million units over the next three years. Some analysts are less optimistic.

“3D TV is set to increase in popularity over the next five years due a number of contributing factors — a key reason being the push from content owners, broadcasters and pay TV platforms who are keen to drive adoption as they see this as a potential growth area,” said Simon Murray, who is principal media analyst at Informa Telecoms and Media. “Although the forecast figure seems quite low, the market will still be very immature by 2015, so significant opportunities exist beyond this date.”

He suggests that although some 845,000 homes may have a 3D Ready television by the end of 2010, with some 70 million by the end of 2015, representing 5% of television homes, only a small minority will actually be watching 3D television.

So why will people buy 3D Ready television sets? Some will be early adopters. Others may wish to have the option. Many of them may be playing games or watching movies, or adult titles. Most people simply will not be prepared to wear special glasses for extended periods. A scarcity of broadcast programming, which will initially be more expensive to produce, will inhibit adoption of 3D, as in the early days of high-definition.

Informa forecasts that there will be fewer than 2 million homes viewing 3DTV by the end of 2012. North America will have most active 3DTV homes, rising from 60,000 this year to 9.2 million in 2015, representing 7% of television homes. Western Europe will rise from 22,000 to 6.7 million, of which 1.6 million will be in the United Kingdom, while Asia Pacific will rise from 18,000 to 4.6 million.

By platform, Informa predicts that cable will have 10.4 million households, followed by satellite with 6.6 million, IPTV with just under 3 million, and terrestrial with 2.1 million.

Informa forecasts fewer than 30,000 homes in the United Kingdom will be watching 3DTV by the end of 2011. With 2.5 million Sky+HD homes able to receive 3D broadcasts on their current boxes, this implies that only 1-2% of them will upgrade their television to a 3D compatible display to view them.

Global 3DTV Forecasts is published by Informa and includes projected uptake for stereoscopic television in 53 countries.

The 3DTV World Forum takes place in London 25-26 May 2010 and informitv will be chairing the session on 3D Visualisation and Display.