Ralph Kramden can finally buy a television.
It was more than half a century ago, in a 1955 episode of “The Honeymooners,” that Kramden, the parsimonious bus driver played by Jackie Gleason, told his wife, Alice, that he had not yet bought a new television because “I’m waiting for 3-D.”
The wait will soon be over. A full-fledged 3-D television turf war is brewing in the United States, as manufacturers unveil sets capable of 3-D and cable programmers rush to create new channels for them.
Many people are skeptical that consumers will suddenly pull their LCD and plasma televisions off the wall. Beginning at around $2,000, the 3-D sets will, at first, cost more than even the current crop of high-end flat-screens, and buyers will need special glasses — techie goggles, really — to watch in 3-D.
But programmers and technology companies are betting that consumers are almost ready to fall in love with television in the third dimension. In part, it could be the “Avatar” effect: with 3-D films gaining traction at the box office — James Cameron’s “Avatar” surpassed the staggering $1 billion mark last weekend — companies are now determined to bring an equivalent experience to the living room.
Anticipating this coming wave, ESPN said Tuesday that it would show World Cup soccer matches and N.B.A. games in 3-D on a new network starting in June, and Discovery, Imax and Sony said they would jointly create a 3-D entertainment channel next year. The satellite service DirecTV is expected to announce its own 3-D channels at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where every major television manufacturer is planning to announce 3-D televisions and compatible Blu-ray DVD players on Wednesday.
“The stars are aligning to make 2010 the launch year of 3-D,” said John Taylor, a vice president for LG Electronics USA. “It’s still just in its infancy, but when there is a sufficient amount of content available — and lots of people are working on this — there will be a true tipping point for consumers.”