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Entering the Ultra HD Era: A third of US households will own UHD TVs by 2020

by David Mercer | May 13, 2014

Our latest research highlights the importance of Ultra HD (UHD) in television’s future. Global Ultra HD TV sales reached 1.7 million units last year, although the vast majority of these were sold in China. Sales in the US and Europe will begin to pick up this year, and 4% of all flat panel TVs sold worldwide in 2014 are expected to be UHD-ready. DigitalEurope, Europe’s industry body for consumer electronics manufacturers, is preparing to approve logos which will provide consumer confidence in UHD TV during the latter part of 2014. By 2020 ownership of UHD TVs will have reached a third of US homes and 22% in western Europe.

 

UHD is at the beginning of a growth curve and there are already signs that commentators are nervous about its future. The less enlightened ones point to 3D TV as evidence of recent failures, but Strategy Analytics was always cautious about 3D TV (see 3DTV Opportunity? Look to the Cube Tubers! ), and while 3D-enabled TVs still sell relatively well there is of course very little 3D-originated content. Other UHD concerns centre on pricing, lack of content and lack of need.

All of these concerns are unjustified and Ultra HD will be successful for several reasons. Viewers don’t need to wear glasses (always one of the primary objections to 3D TV), the experience of true Ultra HD content is a real step up from regular HD, UHD TV prices will fall steadily towards regular HD levels, and the content and distribution industries are already gearing up to support video in the new format.

For these and other reasons we expect Ultra HD to become the next HDTV, but it will take time and inevitably some observers will comment on the supposedly slow uptake in the next few months and years. The reality is that the TV industry has to work to different timescales from the internet world, even though some early 4K content will come from internet content players like Netflix. While we’ve seen a couple of early announcements about 4K broadcasting it’s likely to be 2016 before the major pay TV broadcasters like DirecTV and Sky start major rollouts of their 4K services.

Content producers are already gearing up for the 4K future and a number of trials of 4K sports productions have taken place. A few games at next month’s World Cup finals will be captured and distributed in 4K, although it’s not clear yet where they will be watched – my bet is that a few cinema outlets will carry them. Content people will talk about learning the new language demanded by 4K: camera positioning and techniques will change because viewers can see much more detail from a greater distance. Personally I find the ability to watch the entire football pitch without an editor interfering with close-ups quite compelling and as close to “being there” as it is possible to get with today’s technology. We’ll see over time whether that’s something that becomes commonplace once UHD broadcasting begins.

I’ll be chairing two panels on Ultra HD next month in London and Dubrovnik – it would be great to see you there:

Connected TV World Summit

New EU Market

David Mercer

 

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