It’s no secret that the TV industry has struggled with declining sales over the last couple of years, but with the emergence of exciting new technologies like 4K Ultra HD, major brands are hoping this will be enough to revitalise their businesses. Companies like Sony especially are pushing 4K extremely hard, but just as these efforts are beginning to stir interest among consumers, a new threat has emerged to their businesses coming from China.
The warning comes from NPD DisplaySearch’s Quarterly Global TV Shipment and Forecast Report published this week, which predicts that shipments of 4K TVs will explode from just 1.3 million units in 2013 to more than 23 million by 2017. That’s good news for the industry all round – but established brands like Sony, Samsung, LG and Panasonic may not be the main beneficiaries, as Chinese brands are aggressively pushing for a leading position on the global stage.
Paul Gray, director of European TV research for NPD DisplaySearch, stated that the Chinese see 4K TV as a completely different feature to the rest of the world.
“Most Chinese-made 4K TVs have very modest capabilities, with smaller sizes and lower prices. Elsewhere in the world, 4K TVs are extremely large, they have complex image processing features, and most of them are future-proofed,” said Gray.
4K TV is set to grow even as broadcasters scramble to get the infrastructure in place to deliver 4K content. DisplaySearch notes that right now, 4K programming is extremely limited, with emerging standards like HEVC and HDMI 2.0 still a long way from being widely adopted. As a result, major brands like Sony and Samsung have been biding their time.
“It’s faster to build 4K TVs than it is for the industry to create a broadcasting standard that will last for the next decade,” said Gray. “When these new standards have been ratified, we’ll see a rapid rollout of broadcast services before global brands accelerate their product offerings.”
But this roadblock won’t stop Chinese brands, which have been aggressively pushing 4K from the get-go. By offering ultra high-definition (UHD) TV sets at a much-reduced price from global brands, with smaller sizes available, China is expected to dominate global shipments over the next few years. From 2013 to 2017, Chinese brands will account for around 50% of all global 4K TV shipments says DisplaySearch.
“Competitive pressure within the industry will likely drive Chinese brand’s prices down even further, stimulating even more growth. However, Japanese and Korean brands have been somewhat reluctant to fight the Chinese on price alone,” notes Gray.
Chinese sets may well be cheaper and more plentiful, but DisplaySearch warns that for the next couple of years at least, consumers would probably be better off spending more – or else waiting.
“Chinese 4K TVs have made headlines for their low cost, but its difficult to be confident about these products’ ability to display all kinds of native 4K content when it eventually becomes available,” warned Gray.