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The next big thing in home entertainment is struggling to make a dent in overall TV sales.

Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES - Barely settled into their first home together, Arman Galstyan and Carolyn Kaloostian were itching to buy a new television to go along with it.

But the Glendale, Calif., couple were not about to settle for just any big-screen, HD flat-panel TV. It had to be 3-D.

"We had been wanting to get it, and when we heard they came out, we didn't even let a chance for competition to bring the prices down," said Kaloostian, 27, as her fiance paid the cashier at a Best Buy in Los Angeles.

That's just what television manufacturers, who began rolling out a new generation of 3-D-capable sets amid much hype early this year, want to hear.

But the first sales figures on 3-D TVs and a newly released consumer survey indicate the industry has a long way to go before the new technology catches on in a big way, if it ever does.

In the sets' first three months on the market, starting in February, consumers nationwide spent about $55 million on 3-D-capable TVs and related equipment, according to an NPD Group survey of some of the largest retailers carrying the products.

Paul Gagnon, an analyst with DisplaySearch, said about 20,000 sets were sold by those major retailers. Approximately 7 million TVs overall were shipped to retailers around that time frame, according to the Consumer Electronics Association trade group.

Similarly, a Parks Associates study released last week showed that despite the success of several recent 3-D movies, awareness of the home technology is middling, even in the tech-savvy 18-to-34 age group.

"We don't see a large percentage of people going out of their way to go buy a new TV just because of 3-D," said Parks analyst Pietro Macchiarella, who said he had not expected only 13 percent of the people surveyed this quarter to describe themselves as "familiar" with 3-D TVs.

"I think it's a little bit of a surprise," Macchiarella said.

Despite the hype, only a tiny amount of 3-D content is available for the home screen. That's changing, slowly. Currently, World Cup soccer matches can be viewed in 3-D by DirecTV and Comcast cable subscribers.

Sports could be a key factor for many consumers.

"It'll be cool to have basketball in 3-D," said George Preciado, 33, a Los Angeles resident who said he has made four trips to different stores to look at sets.

Preciado's also a gamer, which could make him a more likely candidate to buy a set as more 3-D video games become available.