Ultra definition TVs coming faster and cheaper, CEA predicts

by Steve Blum • , ,

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.