Larger pixels, four times in case of 4K and 16 times in case of 8K, than standard full HDTV, is where the TV market is headed over the next five years.
TVs are getting smarter. Viewers, especially under the age of 40, stream content on their TV using built-in apps or a device. Because of this shift to streaming content, the demand for smart TVs is predicted to continue to rise. And some TVs are morphing into massive sets that can bend and stretch bringing a new dynamic way to view content.
Manufacturers are increasing the IQ of their smart displays by including voice-activated digital assistants. Up until now, TVs and streaming media players have accepted voice commands through the remote. However, some sets now include far-field microphone arrays to allow viewers to vocally command the TV from across the room without speaking into a microphone on the remote. Regardless of the location of the microphone, TVs are increasingly becoming a focal point for smart home interaction and control.
We are also watching TV in a different way. There is an increasingly regularly use of a second digital device, typically a smartphone or a laptop, while watching TV. Called the second screen, viewers engage in social media, research topics or actors in the show, or interact with unrelated content while watching.
TVs will continue to stay at the center of our entertainment experience. But as social media and online streaming sites become the cultural norm, we can expect the way we consume our entertainment to be personalized, easy to use and interactive.
TV sales reach an 8-year high, thanks to 4k, and here’s what to expect from 8K
After a number of years of almost stagnant growth and development, worldwide TV shipments were given a major boost by the advent and steady permeation of 4K ultra HD display technology into their designs. This is what the market data is showing according to the latest findings and what much of the market clues have been indicating for at least a couple of years now as 4K TVs not only became more common but also much more affordable across the board.
Specifically, according to a report from the analysts at the firm Futuresource Consulting, 2018 ended with the strongest growth of the last decade due to 4K TV shipment value growing by 6 percent over the year before.
Even more surprising are the findings and predictions on 8K TVs, which finally entered their own stable niche in 2018 and are expected to see shipments of at least 0.2 million units in 2019. By 2023, this fledgling market is predicted to see 130 percent growth as more brands back the technology of 8K. The interesting thing about this is that 8K TV sales are growing so decently despite the fact that 8K video sources basically do not yet exist for the consumer market due to continuing difficulties with the peripheral technologies of creating and transmitting 8K video.
Overall 4K TV sales in 2018 amounted to a whopping 227 million TV units sold, with a trade value of over USD 85 billion, according to Mathew Rubin, a senior analyst at the consulting firm behind the study. Furthermore, according to Rubin, “All this action is the result of a number of factors, applying pressure and influencing the landscape. Price reductions for premium technologies like 4K have started to open up the mass market; meanwhile, major investment in South-East Asian production has not only helped the local market, but also driven down large screen pricing across the globe. And despite some localized macro-economic problems, which have caused significant shipment fluctuations for several countries, the world view is positive.”
The biggest sources of growth for the 4K TV market have been the BRIC economies of the developing world. Demand in these has completely surpassed either flat or even declining demand in Western Europe and North America according to the findings. Countries, such as Russia, Brazil, and China, saw particular 4K TV shipment increases due to a number of reasons that include Russia’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup (which was offered live in 4K in may places) and Brazil’s switch-off of analogue TV in 2017. China’s market saw 4K TV shipments grow too but only at a modest single digit pace compared to previous years.
Even in Western Europe and North America, where shipments in 2018 fell slightly, the picture for 4K TV sales did not look too bad: The Eastern-European market more than compensated for the Western-European slump with growth of 6 percent while shipments in North America only slumped very slightly by a tenth of a percent and still amounted to over 42 million 4K UHD TVs sold.
The brands making the biggest strides in this market are those that have been creating budget 4K TVs according to the Futuresource findings, but despite this, major players like LG, Samsung, and Sony remain absolutely dominant and capable of defending their profit margins on the global market.
The most important aspect of the 4K TV market is the growth it has yet to see worldwide. Because of dramatically falling prices, increased 4K TV standardization, and increased mainline production of TV sets of 40 inches or more, Futuresource expects 4K TV shipments to command half the market in this year. Even more fundamentally, by 2023, 4K TV ownership is expected to reach over 960 million units worldwide, meaning a total market penetration of 42 percent. These are impressive figures compared to what 4K TVs represented as a share of the total market only four years ago.
8K is getting real
All eyes are on the next big upgrade in screen resolution. 8K displays are marking a milestone in clarity and picture quality as new models are being introduced. 8K video, which quadruples the number of pixels that 4K Ultra HD offers, allows for larger displays that do not lose image clarity, providing a more immersive viewing experience. But 8K will impact more than just TV viewing. Higher screen resolution is especially relevant to virtual reality, where more pixels help to improve the visual experience in all-encompassing VR applications.
Why do we need 8K when 4K just became a thing? Is this a planned obsolescence scenario for TV? An attempt to force an upgrade before its time? And what about content? Is there any hope for 8K when we can barely get 4K? Those are all fair questions.
What is 8K? It may seem like 8K would provide double the resolution of 4K, but that is not the case. Since we are talking two dimensions here – horizontal lines and vertical lines – it is actually 16 times the pixels of HD and four times the pixels of 4K: 8K resolution equates to 7680×4320, or 33 million pixels (33,117,600, to be exact), instead of 3840×2160 (8,294,400 pixels). To more easily visualize it, imagine four 4K TVs placed in a four-by-four grid. That is a lot of pixels.
Other technologies like high-dynamic range (HDR) can and do sometimes make a more visible difference, especially from a distance, since TVs show a brighter and more colorful picture with HDR. That said, 8K is absolutely noticeable on larger displays, especially up close.
A brief history of 8K. Just as 4K TVs were beginning to take off, 8K started appearing. While display panels had been shown earlier, Sharp showed off the first actual 8K TV at CES 2013, with an impressive 85-inch model. Of course, this TV would not be available for purchase that year (or years later), which is often par for the course at CES, especially with cutting-edge technology.
In following years, other companies began to show their own 8K TV prototypes, even as content providers were struggling to keep up with 4K. This too eventually changed, with Japanese broadcaster NHK kicking off the first 8K satellite broadcasts in 2016. Later that year, part of the 2016 Rio Olympics was shot and broadcast in 8K by NHK, though viewers could only watch them in that resolution at special theaters.
8K is now available. Ready or not, 8K TVs are now here. Fresh from their debuts at CES 2019, manufacturers started to announce the availability of their 8K models. Samsung, which already had an 8K model in 2018, announced the availability of its 2019 QLED TVs, which include the Q900, an 8K model that is available in sizes ranging from 65 to 98 inches. LG, for its part, on June 3, 2019, kicked off sales of the world’s first 8K OLED TV in South Korea and announced 8K availability in the US in (JAS) quarter. LG’s largest OLED screen to date 88Z9 employs an advanced 8K panel with more than 33 million self-emitting pixels for a resolution that is 16 times greater than standard HD and four times that of 4K Ultra HD. Sony’s 8K ZG9 series (Z9G in the US) was launched in June too for USD 70,000 for the 98-inch model, and a much-cheaper-but-still-huge price of USD 13,000 for the 85-inch version. Haier had entered the battlezone too, with its announcement of an 8K TV at IFA 2018. TCL showed off an 8K Roku TV at CES 2019 that is widely expected to be available this year – likely at a price that will make it the most affordable 8K TV on the market.
8K TVs will likely remain out of reach for most consumers this year, but prices can be expected to start falling quickly now that most major manufacturers are producing them. In the same way that 4K prices dropped sharply over just a couple of years, 8K pricing will follow suit – possibly even faster.
To give an idea of how far things have come, Sharp’s first 8K TV went on sale for professional use in Japan in 2015 for USD 133,000. The fact that Samsung’s new 65-inch model costs just three percent of the price of that early model shows just how quickly things move in TV land!