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Can 4K OLED give ailing TV market a lift?

Posted: 14 Apr 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:TV  4K  OLED  LCD 

The TV industry is not yet there, but if Ultra High Definition also known as 4K (boasting 3840 x 2160pixels at either 60fps or 120fps) won't be able to do its magic, then we may as well be seeing less and less TV releases pretty soon. On a positive note, the recent NAB Show in Las Vegas has seen a number of announcements pertaining to the latest in TV technology, which the industry has put its hope in to turn its trouble around.

The move to 4K could be seen as a desperate attempt by the TV industry to reverse the global market trend: two consecutive years of decline since the 2011 peak of 255 million units shipped worldwide. Even if LCD or OLED TVs grow larger, flatter and thinner, cloud-based services and video compression may eventually kill wall-mounted TVs as a concept.

4K is a very important strategy for most brands, but particularly those targeting the high-end TV market, observed Paul Gagnon, director of global TV research for NPD DisplaySearch.

But overall TV shipments fell three per cent in 2013 (seven per cent in 2012) and even newer LCD TVs declined one per cent as early as 2012 (CRT and plasma TVs being the hardest hit technologies). But NPD DisplaySearch expects the number of UHD TVs to reach 62 million in 2017.

The research firm sees OLED and 4K TVs as growth drivers, it expects curved TVs display shipments to reach nearly 800,000 units in 2014 and to exceed six million units by the end of 2017, boosted by OLED TVs.

But the novelty of OLED and curved TVs will wear off too and even the higher selling prices and higher profit margins of such TVs will certainly fail to compensate for the overall market shrink.

What probably makes it harder to attract TV buyers, especially in saturated markets such as Europe and the USA, is that consumers spend more time on their smartphones and other internet-connected devices, with online content and games at their fingertip wherever they are.

Splashing tens of thousands of dollars only to be stuck in a room watching the same mediocre content (with a better resolution I admit) that you could access from any mobile device does not make much sense unless you are after a status symbol.

Even as a very wealthy photographer or video maker, you would think twice before spending that sort of money only to lose flexibility. Portable projectors are also moving into the wide-screen space, again with unbeatable portability and projection size.

On the bright side for high-end TV makers, China will be the new Eldorado for 4K TVs, with Chinese brands accounting for 84 per cent of global 4K TV shipments that totalled 1.6 million units in 2013 according to NPD DisplaySearch. Pricing war is then likely to reduce the high-margin benefit of making such large display units.

- Julien Happich
  EE Times Europe

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