The Consumer Electronics Association is forecasting 4 million 4K televisions will be sold in the U.S. in 2015, representing 20% of the market for 40-inch or larger screens. That prediction ramps to 14 million – 63% of the big screen category – in 2018. Those numbers are significant: in a short period of time, ultra HD TV’s will move from technophiles – less than 1% of the market – into the hands of the 15% to 20% of consumers who can be characterised as mainstream early adopters.
Worldwide, CEA says 23.3 million 4K sets will move, with most – 57% – sold in China.
Whether that’s enough to build sufficient pressure to drive wide scale fiber to the home deployments is an open question. Satellite systems can fill the near term gap. As Steve Koenig, CEA’s industry analysis director, pointed out, manufacturers are simply replacing high end 1080p units with 4K sets in their product lines, which means many buyers will just be chasing the high end of the range, rather than specifically looking for ultra definition capabilities. That’s in line with his predicted sub-$1,000 price points for 50 to 60-inch ultra sets.
Content is still a question. CEA’s chief economist, Shawn Dubravac, only offered two examples of 4K content producers: Netflix and Amazon. There are others, albeit still limited to showcase programming. But studios are using 4K, 8K and other high end production formats, so the libraries are beginning to fill.
CEA might be tempted to lean to the optimistic side at times, but they often get it right, at least as often as other crystal ball gazers. Even if they just have the general shape of the adoption curve right, the tipping point will come sooner than I’ve been expecting – maybe by the end of this decade rather than in the early to mid years of the next. Broadband companies need to think about how to meet that demand.
At its opening press conference at CES this afternoon, the Consumer Electronics Association predicted that 4 million ultra high definition – 4K – television sets will be sold in 2015, against 77,000 in 2013 and an estimated 1.3 million in 2014. By 2018, CEA says that annual 4K sales volume will hit 14 million. Price points for sets in the 50-inch range – the smaller end of the scale in 4K terms – are expected to drop below $1,000.
Gary Shapiro, the president of the Consumer Electronics Association, has published a blistering attack on U.S. broadcasters, characterising their rear-guard opposition to new technology as the madness and nonsense of Alice’s Wonderland and urging congress to yank the licenses of television stations that act against the public interest. Not just in what they put on the air, but also their business practices. Shapiro points to a decision by CBS executives to suppress a news story that didn’t fall in line with their business goals…
Last year, CBS leadership reversed a decision by 40 CNET editors who voted the DISH Hopper Sling the best innovation at the 2013 International CES®. CBS and other broadcasters sued DISH over its ad-skipping Hopper, but so far the courts have said this feature is legal. Worse, CBS’s top executives ordered their editors to lie about removing the Hopper from the “Best of” CES list.
Other examples offered by Shapiro include broadcasters’ opposition to Aereo and cable and satellite blackouts resulting from fights over fees paid to retransmit their signals.
To say the least, it’s unlikely that congress will start revoking broadcast licenses. In fact, it’s authorised the FCC to spend billions of dollars to buy back channel space to clear spectrum for wireless broadband service. And Shapiro’s hyperbole has more than a touch of disingenuousness: he (correctly) brands the National Association of Broadcasters as the industry’s “lobbying arm” but neglects to mention that his organisation fills the same role for consumer electronics manufacturers.
Shapiro is dead on, though, in characterising broadcasters as essentially Luddites. The followers of Ned Ludd fought against new technology that was displacing the old technology they relied on to make a living. Television broadcasters had a good run – many fortunes were made in the past 65 years – but their hold on a national audience continues to slip, as does the number of people who watch TV channels over the air.
Broadcasters have every right to try block innovation that doesn’t serve their interests, just as everyone else has a right – a duty – to ignore them when possible and oppose them when not. That includes congress, courts and the FCC.
Global consumer technology sales hit $1.1 trillion last year, but will slip back a few billion dollars in 2014. That’s the top line forecast from the Consumer Electronics Association, which represents the industry in the U.S. and organises CES, which is getting underway now in Las Vegas.
Smart phones and tablets have driven the market for the past four years, and are expected to account for 43% of global technology sales in 2014, dwarfing televisions and personal computers. But even so, overall revenue is weakening.
“Sales growth for tablets and smart phones is slowing” said Steve Koenig, an industry analyst with CEA. “Volume and growth is becoming increasingly reliant on lower end devices. Lower end devices are what’s required to penetrate developing markets”.
Developing markets, like China, are pulling ahead of traditional powerhouses like North America (expected to slide 1% in 2014) and Europe (down 6%). And the action is around mobile devices, not television sets. Smart phones are at the top of Chinese consumers’ wish lists, with 59% saying they want to buy one. The least desired products are HDTVs, with only 32% expressing interest.
Prices will continue to slide, as Chinese manufacturers pump up sales in the domestic market. In 2010, the average unsubsidised price of a smart phone was $444 globally. Last year, it was $345, and it’s expected to fall under $300 in 2014. As prices fall and global unit sales climb, overall revenue from smart phones and tablets is still expected to grow, by 6% and 9% respectively, but that’s slower than 2013, which those figures were 27% and 30%. With other product categories weakening, the overall result will be a 1% drop in total consumer technology sales in the coming year, according to Koenig.
Broadband cabling is fast becoming a standard feature in new homes built in the U.S., with 92% being pre-wired to one degree or another. Many include sophisticated video and/or data distribution networks. That’s the conclusion of a report just released by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).
The CEA’s eleventh annual State of the Builder study found that “structured wiring” is installed in 70% of new homes. That doesn’t necessarily mean all of those homes are completely wired for Internet. Structured wiring is a term that refers to a relatively sophisticated network architecture in a home, typically focused on a central distribution hub that’s fed by outside services, such has cable, DSL, satellite or telephone. But it doesn’t have to include all those sources. A structured wiring system might be set up just to distribute cable TV, for example.
Another of the report’s findings is that home networking is increasingly being viewed as a basic necessity, rather than a luxury. The percentage of new homes built with structured wiring crashed along with the housing market in 2008. In the last couple of years, though, despite sluggish growth in new home construction, the proportion of homes built with structured wiring is back to 2008 levels. The overall percentage of new homes with some level of built in broadband cabling has continued to rise, from 36% in 2002 to 92% in this latest report.
Although figures weren’t given, the CEA release said that remodelers are also doing more broadband cabling business than before. It’s another indication of greater willingness among U.S. consumers to spend money on broadband facilities, on top of service.