Samsung and Philips Ditch 3D TVs

Is 3D for the Home In Its Death Throes?

Philips 8900 series TV
Philips/TP Vision

With most of the major TV brands set to start shipping their 2016 TV ranges in the next few weeks, we’re starting to find out more and more about the full feature sets those TVs will carry. And it’s becoming clear that for some brands, at least, one feature that’s no longer on the agenda is 3D.

For starters, Samsung told me this week that despite having a typically huge range of TVs for 2016, only its flagship KS9800 (KS9500 in the UK) series will support 3D playback. This decision is coming from a brand, let’s not forget, that has in the past been one of 3D’s most aggressive supporters, in terms of both the amount of 3D TVs it’s produced and the technology it’s developed to try and improve the 3D TV experience. 

The Great Active Vs Passive 3d War

Who can forget, either, the effort Samsung put into its bitter spat with LG over whether the active shutter or passive filter approach gave the best 3D results for the home? 

Now, though, Samsung tells me that it simply doesn’t believe there’s still sufficient interest in 3D to justify the costs - even though they’re not really all that high - and power consumption issues associated with putting 3D on any but its most expensive TV range.

Even more drastically, the European wing of Philips announced at a recent press event that not a single model in its also extensive TV range for 2016 will support 3D playback. When asked why, Philips’ chief picture technology engineer Danny Tack declared that “3D is dead”. Which is about as straightforward a declaration of a TV brand’s stance on 3D as you could get.

Not Just Samsung and Philips

While Samsung and Philips have been the most forthright TV brands when it comes to declaring 3D in the home now so niche that it’s hardly worth bothering with anymore, Sony’s latest TV range also sidelines 3D more than ever before, with only its flagship X94D (previewed here) and step-down X93D (previewed here) models continuing to offer 3D playback. Particularly striking is the lack of 3D support on Sony’s likely popular X85D series of 4K, HDR-capable TVs.

Even LG, which had to completely alter the way it makes its TVs so that it could start putting passive filters onto them to deliver 3D support, has announced that one of its 2016 OLED TVs will no longer support 3D.

It’s important to stress at this point that 3D as a commercial cinema format still seems to be doing OK, so it’s only the home 3D format that appears to be hitting the skids. That said, with the new Ultra HD Blu-ray format not even including support for 3D, you have to wonder if studios will still feel so keen to invest in making a 3D version of a film when they can’t also depend on a secondary home market for that 3D version.

A Costly Mistake?

The million dollar question hanging over all this is whether it’s actually a mistake for the big TV brands to be starting to remove 3D from their TVs. After all, while it’s undeniable that - for a variety of reasons - 3D in the home never caught on nearly as much as the TV industry hoped it would, the format does still appear to have a dedicated and passionate niche fanbase.

So Samsung and Philips run the risk of losing a least a small audience for their 3D-less 2016 TVs - and in a marketplace as ultra competitive as the one every TV brand is faced with today, you have to wonder if either of them can truly afford to lose ANY potential customers.Guess we’ll just have to wait and see if Samsung and Philips suddenly decide they’d better start putting 3D back on their TVs again in 2017…

  • News on Samsung's 2016 TVs can be found here.
  • News on LG's 2016 TVs can be found here.
  • News on Sony's 2016 TVs can be found here