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HBO’s Zitter: 3D TV with glasses is dead, 4K is unlikely to succeed

3D TV – at least the version that requires glasses – is “dead”, while 4K TV is highly unlikely to succeed, according to Bob Zitter, executive vice-president and chief technology officer, HBO.

Zitter, who is due to retire in a week, told attendees at the TV Connect event in London that 3D with glasses had clearly failed, and that he was sceptical about the chances for 4K or Ultra-HD TV.

“We never thought that 3D with glasses was ever going to get off the ground,” Zitter told TV Connect attendees. “Consumers have shown they do not want to wear glasses in the home. 3D with glasses is dead,” said Zitter.

He said the development of autostereoscopic 3D technology that did not require the use of glasses now did not look like it would be available anytime soon.

Addressing the potential for 4K and Ultra HD, Zitter said he did not think the technology was compelling for most consumers. “I’m very sceptical that consumers are going to want to buy it,” said Zitter. He said only about 25-30% of homes even in the US had space for a TV large enough for viewers to discern the difference between regular HD and 4K. He said that broadcasters would not have an incentive to migrate from HD to 4K if only 30% of the market could be addressed with the technology.

Zitter said 4K TV could possibly gain traction if auto-stereoscopic 3D – which would require 4K transmissions to deliver a 3D HD experience – did take off or, alternatively, if new technologies such as wall-panel TV or OLED-based flexible ‘wallpaper’ screens emerged and won over consumers.

Zitter also said that while cord-cutting of pay TV services is happening to some extent in the US, the reasons are still unclear. He said that the traditional business model for pay TV would likely remain. “I don’t think the business models will really change. Viewing will be free and advertising support, transactional or subscription. OTT is happening. There are non-facilities-based distributors, but the US cable industry is evolving. It will make less money from TV but more from packaging services,” he said.

Zitter said HBO had launched HBO Nordic “on a different model because there were strong existing pay TV services focused on movies” in the market and because the region was well-served with high-speed internet services. The over-the-top service launched by HBO in the region was focused strongly on series, he said. “Since there were other pay TV operators with a traditional model we decided to launch as an OTT service,” he said.

Zitter said that about 85% of viewing on the HBO Go on-demand service in the US is of series rather than movies, the reverse of the regular HBO service.