Europeans are snapping up Ultra HD TVs, but not at the same pace as Americans and Chinese consumers. New research from Dataxis found that sales of UHD TVs accounted for 22% of all TV sales in Europe last year, up a very healthy 12% from 2015.
The researcher found that nearly 12 million UHD TV sets were sold in Europe in 2016, with the UK and Germany leading with 2 million sets each, France with 1.7 million and Russia with 1.4 million sets sold. But this compares with 25 million sets sold in China. Of course, with a population more than twice that of Europe, you would expect higher shipments, but even as a percentage of all TVs sold, UHD accounted for 33% of the market in China, compared with 22% in Europe.
In percentage terms Europe is closer to the US, with 24% of all TVs sold there last year being UHD sets, according to estimates from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). But it is expected to ramp up faster, with the CTA projecting 15 million UHD TVs will sell in 2017, or about 40% of all TVs sold.
Still, growth over the past three years has been more than robust, even in Europe. And with 17 million UHD sets projected to sell in 2017, that should work out to more than 30% of all TV shipments in Europe (based on a rather basic back-of-the-envelope calculation). That's a significant 10% behind the leading regions, but still a very sizeable percentage for an as-yet emerging technology.
Research has also shown that without additional features such as High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Color Gamut (WCG) that add more richness and color to video, the additional resolution of UHD is only noticeable on TV sets 55-inches or larger. Most European countries have smaller average homes than the US, so they are less likely to have the space for a really large TV set.
But that theory doesn't work when comparing Europe to China -- average homes in China have less square footage than most European countries. There, we think it's more to do with network capacity. Many networks in China have been deployed more recently and have skipped a technology generation. Greenfield deployments tend to be fiber-to-the-home, given the bandwidth requirements today. As such, they are in a better position to offer fat video feeds such as UHD.
The CTA has pointed out that UHD is growing faster than HD was at the same stage of its evolution. Much like HD, UHD is being initially driven by device manufacturers, but will need an ecosystem in sync to drive adoption. It's not just about getting UHD TV sets into the home -- you also need content to be produced in UHD, broadcast in UHD, delivered by pay-TV providers in UHD, and have set-top boxes at home that support UHD feeds.
New equipment is required at each step, and there has to be a business model to provide a return on the investment required to purchase, install and run the new equipment. But perhaps most important is the additional bandwidth required to deliver UHD quality, which is considerably more than HD. This is a huge challenge for network operators.
Today, consumers are buying UHD TVs because that's what is being offered to them at retail outlets when they go to buy a TV. There isn't much content out there, and even less actually making it out to the TV in your home. As with HD, it will take producers, broadcasters, device manufacturers and pay-TV providers to all work together to maintain this momentum.
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation