Back in 2010 Sony Australia's Paul Colley forecasted that a large percentage of viewers would have 3D televisions by 2014.

In the same year, industry pundits predicted that sales of 3D TVs were set to increase in the years to come.

But others were heralding the death of 3D TVs and this year the remaining major manufacturers, LG and Sony, have said they will no longer produce 3D-capable televisions.

So despite all the repeated push and positive predictions, what went wrong with 3D TV?


Tim Alessi, LG's director of new product development, acknowledged this year that: "3D capability was never really universally embraced in the industry for home use, and it's just not a key buying factor when selecting a new TV."

Sales of 3D TVs have been in decline for several years, according to data from analyst NPD. In 2013, 3D TVs accounted for 23 per cent of TV purchases in the United States, but this dropped to just 8 per cent last year.

But were we ever interested in 3D TV in the home?

In Australia, commercial and pay television broadcasters made attempts to trial 3D television broadcasts during 2010-12. The trials were claimed to be the "first free-to-air terrestrial 3D TV broadcast anywhere in the world" and included the NRL's State of Origin.

Despite the limited trials, 3D TV was then shelved by Australian broadcasters. This may have been due in part to focus on the digital television transition, which had started in some regions during the same year.

On a consumer level, 3D technology has not gained traction. A 2012 report from the Australian Communications and Media Authority found that 3D was never a key factor in purchasing a new television - picture quality and viewing experience; a flat or bigger screen; and access to more channels were more important.

3D has had a long and arguably more successful history in cinema. It's been a go-to for the industry when faced with uncertainties with the introduction of other media, including television and the internet.

The first immense 3D film period was during the 1950s when television was being introduced to many countries. The most recent phase of 3D films dawned in 2009, a trend that some attribute solely to the release of James Cameron's science-fiction film Avatar.

Despite the success of some 3D films, even Cameron has argued that Hollywood has overused 3D. It has been criticised as little more than a gimmick and a money-making exercise, as 3D tickets are more expensive than those for 2D screenings.

This period of 3D cinema is also beginning to slow as the percentage of films released in 3D declines.

Still, 3D appears to suit a cinema audience more than the home TV, so what could be the next add-on for TV at home?

The latest technology being discussed in media production is virtual reality (VR) and 360-video.

UK documentary-maker Sir David Attenborough created a virtual reality experience - but an experience where everyone is wearing headsets is not the best use of a cinema space.

This is just one reason why VR could be an interesting space in which television broadcasters can experiment " perhaps using it as additional content rather than as competition.

The NBA has already trailed 360-video, including games and the recent documentary Follow my Lead.

In Australia, Fox Sports last year began to experiment with the release of Fox Vision. The initial launch was focused on the peak race of the V8 Supercars season.

It allowed the viewer a range of "second screen experiences" via their smartphone, including 360-video hot laps. Fox Sports will expand to other sporting events during the year.

The Seven network also partnered with Samsung to provide VR and 360-video experiences from the Rio Olympics.

But broadcasters should look beyond sport when experimenting with VR and 360-video. It could be added to many other types of TV programme.

A key benefit is that it does not require you to buy a new TV. Instead, you can use a smartphone.

It would further engage with the audience rather than completely take them away from the television screen. Reality programmes particularly come to mind, a key battle ground for commercial broadcasters.

Maybe the future is a 360 view of the My Kitchen Rules table or allowing the audience to be one of the guests at a Married at First Sight wedding.

So during a year where the battle for ratings is focused upon a sports and reality programme line-up, 360 video may become a go-to for broadcasters.

Marc C-Scott is a lecturer in Screen Media, Victoria University.

- The Conversation