Ultra High-Def (UHD) TV and UHD Blu-ray hardware and software sales continue to grow globally, but some challenges remain for the industry, including lingering consumer confusion about High Dynamic Range (HDR), according to Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) and UHD Alliance (UHDA) executives.
The number of global households with at least one 4K TV is expected to increase from 188 million at the end of 2018 to a whopping 501 million by 2022 after growing from 121 million in 2017, Michael Fidler, UHDA president, told the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) in a recent interview, citing IHS Markit sales data and projections.
“You can see there’s pretty significant growth each and every year,” with the U.S., Europe and China being the three “key” markets, he said, adding: “We’re starting to see more growth in Asia Pacific.” There’s just “slight growth in some of the other markets outside, but a lot of that’s still driven by cost issues and pricing and availability of content,” he said. Still, any way you slice it, we’re seeing “healthy” growth, he told MESA.
HDR was expected to be included in more than 50% of all 4K TVs sold globally in 2018, he noted, citing a Futuresource estimate. Despite that growth, he said: “There’s still confusion about exactly what HDR is.”
There is, meanwhile, a continued shift to larger-size TV screens, he said, adding increased capacity for large sizes with oversupply is expected to drive prices down further, according to IHS Markit. At this point, all 55-inch and larger TVs are only UHD models and, by the end of 2019, all 50-inch and larger TVs shipped are expected to be 4K models only, he said. North America is now the second-largest market for 4K TVs, behind China, he also noted.
The core areas of focus for UHDA to help grow the market include continued educational efforts about HDR and other areas, initiatives to make sure that consumers get a premium experience with 4K TVs out of the box, and working to make sure that content creators’ vision is successfully delivered via UHD content, Fidler told MESA. In addition, with the UHD and Mobile HDR Premium logo programs, UHDA is out to “make sure we try to drive more visibility and participation,” he said.
In a separate interview, BDA president Victor Matsuda told MESA that, at this point, “the key driver for everything we do at the BDA” are UHD TVs and the “perfect partner” for the TVs is UHD Blu-ray hardware. Because of growing 4K TV sales, UHD Blu-ray “continues to have very positive take-up worldwide,” he said.
Standalone UHD Blu-ray hardware sales (not including Xbox One consoles) were on track to grow 44% in 2018 from 2017 and are expected to increase 30% in 2019, Matsuda said, citing Futuresource data and projections. Fifteen percent of all Blu-players shipped in 2018 globally were expected to be Ultra HD models and that’s expected to increase to nearly 25% in 2019, he said, adding the global installed base of UHD Blu-ray players was expected to hit 4.5 million by the end of 2018. The installed base is expected to grow to 7.4 million this year, he said, citing Futuresource projections that also call for the installed base to increase to 10.7 million in 2020, 14.2 million in 2021 and 17.5 million in 2022.
The increasing UHD Blu-ray hardware installed base was helped in 2018 by the increased number of UHD Blu-ray players on the market by multiple manufacturers, he said. There were 29 players on the market in December, along with 11 recorder/players, mainly for the Japanese market, he noted.
UHD Blu-ray software, meanwhile, is seeing strong demand and sales are on track to reach an estimated $360 million in sales globally, according to Futuresource. UHD Blu-ray software sales soared 83% in 2018 from 2017, Matsuda said, adding sales are expected to increase a more modest 45% in 2018. Key factors driving the growth include the continuous release of all the latest major theatrical movies in the format, along with an increase in catalog, local/regional and episodic TV titles released on UHD Blu-ray, he said.
Although consumer awareness of 4K is high, he echoed Fidler, saying HDR awareness and understanding remained low. BDA is preparing a heavier focus on Europe and coordinating with industry groups in the European Union to increase educational efforts there, according to Matsuda.