HBO CTO skeptical about future value of 3DTV, 4K

As expected, the need to wear silly looking glasses is enough to turn consumers off of 3DTV, said Bob Zitter, HBO's executive vice president and CTO (at least for another week or so). More alarmingly, Zitter also dismissed prospects for a more evolutionary television change: 4K, or UltraHD.

Bob Zitter, HBO

Zitter (Image source: NCTA)

3D, which always was a more revolutionary than evolutionary transition, was also more problematic in the hurdles it presented to attracting a large audience base--not the least of which were the glasses.

"We never thought that 3D with glasses was ever going to get off the ground," Zitter, who will retire at the end of March, said during the TV Connect event in London covered by Rapid TV News. "Consumers have shown they do not want to wear glasses in the home. 3D with glasses is dead."

The other option--stereoscopic, glasses-free 3D--is a long way off technologically, he added.

Zitter, who has long advocated that HBO be on the forefront of a quality TV experience, also expressed doubts about 4K.

"I'm very skeptical that consumers are going to buy it," he said.

They might not have a choice, actually. Japanese consumer electronics manufacturers, with the backing of their government, are pushing hard to drive 4K devices into the retail market and are causing a frenzy of activity among standards bodies and technology equipment vendors to make it happen.

Zitter's contention is not based on the technology, per se, but on the cost to consumers. He noted that 4K demands a big screen--at least 60 inches--which immediately creates a space problem for many residences. The other problem is the cost: $15,000 to $40,000 for the initial sets.

The 4K skepticism "should concern TV makers who are increasing their investment in new 4K sets," analysts at TV Predictions told the publication. "If channels such as HBO are reluctant to produce in 4K--and there is already a dearth of programming available in the format--it will be increasingly difficult to persuade consumers to buy the sets, regardless of price."

Besides TV makers, multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) should also be on edge. 4K will necessarily require major revisions to existing broadband networks as well as equipment across the gamut from the studio to the residence and in the residence. If there's no market, for whatever reason, even IPTV providers, for whom the transition would be somewhat easier than more traditional cable operators, might be hard-pressed to justify an investment in new equipment. And, without a wireline network to transport and receive the signals, the new technology would be reliant on over-the-air--and that seems unlikely to create a huge market.

For more:
- Rapid TV News carried this story

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