As TV brands look to revitalize their businesses, 4K UHD [ultra high-definition] TV strategies are being planned, and the most aggressive ones are coming from Chinese set makers. Other manufacturers are still awaiting all standards to be finalized since these days there are no clear broadcast specifications and even HDMI standards got support for 4K resolution just several months ago.
According to NPD DisplaySearch, 1.3 million 4K TV sets (defined as having 3840*2160 resolution) will ship globally in 2013, rising to 23 million in 2017, and Chinese set makers are looking to break out of their domestic market and challenge Samsung, LG Electronis, Sony, Panasonic, and other 4K TV leaders on a global stage.
“4K TV is a completely different feature in China, compared to what it is in the rest of the world. In China, 4K TV sets have modest capabilities, start from smaller sizes, and are priced at relatively low premiums. By contrast 4K TV sets elsewhere in the world are very large, have relatively complex image processing, and have some degree of future-proofing,” said Paul Gray, director of European TV research for NPD DisplaySearch.
The 4K TV broadcast and content chain is at an early stage of development. As a result, global CE brands are biding their time with this new generation of products, because 4K TV broadcast standards – a key building block for growth – are missing, and programming is limited. Meanwhile, emerging standards, such as HDMI 2.0, are critical to the content chain.
“It is quicker to design a TV, than it is to craft a broadcasting standard that will endure for at least a decade. Once standards are ratified and broadcast services start to roll out, then global brands will accelerate and launch more mainstream products,” said Mr. Gray.
Although the broadcast infrastructure for 4K TV is not in place, Chinese brands are already promoting 4K TV as a marketing feature to drive up sales among early adopters. With Chinese TV manufacturers positioning the 4K TV feature with a small price premium, NPD DisplaySearch analysts expect that China will figure disproportionately in shipments.
“While 4K TV sets from China have made headlines, it is hard to be confident that these products will be capable of displaying all types of native 4K TV content, when it eventually arrives. Even so, these early products are being positioned as a proof point that Chinese brands have mastered advanced technology and are poised to attack developed markets,” said the analyst.
Between 2013 and 2017, China is expected to comprise over half of all global 4K TV shipments, due to the combination of lower price premiums and the availability of small sizes down to 39”.
“Competitive pressure may indeed build in some regions, driving prices for Chinese brands down further, and stimulating growth; however, there has been a distinct reluctance by Korean and Japanese brands to chase Chinese pricing,” according to Mr. Gray.
Broadcasters are anxious to develop a future TV system that the industry can grow into. In particular, broadcasters take the view that 4K TVis about more than simply resolution, so any new system must also consider color, frame rate, and dynamic range. NPD DisplaySearch examines the path that broadcasters are likely to take in releasing standards, with several steps likely in creating a 4K TV content ecosystem. The report concludes that 60 Hz video is considered a must by broadcasters, with expansions in color and dynamic range likely in the 2016 to 2018 timeframe.
“While 4K TV is currently stealing some of the limelight from OLED, standards development could favor OLED technology in the longer-term and exploit some of its unique abilities,” said Mr. Gray.