By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
New York – Jay Vandenbree, senior VP of the LG Electronics USA’s home entertainment division, unveiled for the first time in the U.S. market a 77-inch Ultra High-Definition OLED curved-screen TV during his keynote address at today’s TWICE/CEA Ultra HD Conference, here.
The official debut for the U.S. market will take place during International CES in January.
In his remarks, Vandenbree called Ultra HD TV “a game changer for our industry,” saying, “This is the future.”
He stressed that with Ultra HD featuring “twice the vertical and horizontal resolution” of today’s HDTVs “some may say it’s too early to kick off the future, I’m here to say the future is now. Today, consumers already are purchasing Ultra HD TVs in ever-increasing numbers. And the reason is simple – they can really see the difference. Consumers’ jaws literally drop when they see it, even more than HDTV.”
Citing LG’s introduction of Ultra HD last year with the first 84-inch set in the U.S., “Despite its high initial price tag, we anticipated a strong growth trajectory for Ultra HD.”
He quoted CEA estimates saying that industry sales will climb to 450,000 units in 2014 and DisplaySearch projections of the 2014 U.S. Ultra HD TV market at about 550,000 units. LG’s projections are higher, Vandenbree noted, saying that sales “will be much higher — perhaps pushing as high as 800,000 units next year — based on the additional number of screen sizes and players coming into the market.”
But he noted that “1080p is not going away” and that it “will be here for quite some time. But we all know consumers want the best, and Ultra HD is all of that and more.”
The LG executive dealt squarely with the issue of Ultra HD content, or lack thereof so far, and up-scaling, saying, “The ‘Chicken and the Egg’ argument has always plagued new product launches. You need content for the hardware, and you need hardware for the content.”
He said that today’s Ultra HD TVs provide up-scaling “that gives consumers an incredible out-of-the-box experience” via Blu-ray, cable, satellite or streaming content “in near 4K resolution.”
While he claimed that LG’s up-scaling feature is “the best ... and, frankly, some other top-tier brands are doing a pretty good job, too.”
He did criticize some “promotionally priced brands” in Ultra HD that, in his words, provide “poor or no up-scaling at all” and “even poor 1080p,” which is a “disservice to the consumer.”
While good up-scaling is “an elegant near-term solution” for the 4K content issue, Vandenbree stressed, “There is still a need to develop 4K content. And, frankly, that might be closer than you may think.”
He confirmed that sports and movies are what consumers watch on their big-screen TVs and said many TV shows are already being shot in 4K today, “and 35mm feature films are relatively easy to convert as well.”
With sports “it’s a little trickier,” Vandenbree admitted. “We learned first-hand this spring, when LG worked with Turner and CBS Sports on the 4K production of the Final Four, that it was expensive and cumbersome. But guess what? No more so than the early production of HDTV.”
Vandenbree sees streaming as the initial method of delivering 4K content to consumers, followed by packaged media and then by cable and satellite. “Even over-the-air will ultimately deliver 4K content,” Vandenbree hopefully asserted.
The LG exec suggested that “consumer-generated content is likely to take a prominent place in the 4K ecosystem.” He added, “Artists, filmmakers, graphic designers — professional or just weekenders — consumer and B to B will all be part of this sea change.”
Vandenbree also dealt with the many claims, and counter-claims, about Ultra HD by the industry – without mentioning any names – saying such comments, “unnecessarily [fuel] the flames of consumer confusion.”
He added, “I would never presume to speak for another manufacturer or give ‘facts’ based on what is most convenient for my company … such actions give a black eye to an industry that needs more reasons to get consumers to choose to spend their discretionary dollars on consumer electronics.”
Vandenbree accentuated the positive by saying, “This is our time to let the consumers see the joy in the experience … Someday in the not-so-distant future, Ultra High Definition will be just known as TV. And it will open doors for new innovation in both consumer and professional arenas.”
In a Q&A with CEA’s president/CEO Gary Shapiro, Vandenbree said of comparing this to the HDTV launch: “I think that when we launched HDTV, it can’t get any better than that. Since that launch, they talk about smart TV and 3D. Now we can talk about picture quality, [and] that it is even better.”
Vandenbree noted that up-scaling is very important “to show the quality of the TV. You show consumers in the store and at home, exactly what you get in both places.”
When Shapiro mentioning popular content providers, including HBO and ESPN, Vandenbree said, “We can get into market penetration without some of them and content providers will see what is going on and will get on board.”
He answered that “TV will lead the way,” vs. the native content in the early days.
Shapiro mentioned 3D and asked if it is an impediment to Ultra HD. The LG exec responded, “Consumers understand it in theaters … but we didn’t explain 3D was the next great feature. The next great thing is Ultra HD.”
Vandenbree noted, “When the picture is better, the consumers get it. So this will be successful.”
When Shapiro asked about Ultra HD content, Vandenbree said, “Streaming will lead the way” since more and more consumers are used to it.
Turning to business-to- business, Vandenbree told Shapiro that in the commercial display business at airports and other venues such as hotels “consumers will demand Ultra HD.”
A questions from the audience prompted the LG exec to say that OLED “will benefit from the introduction of Ultra HD.”
As for retail, Vandenbree said, “Whether it is a disc, streaming, or your own content, smart retailers will encourage consumers to come in and see it via up-scaling for 4K quality. Consumers will see what their own content looks like on an Ultra HD TV.”
Vandenbree said retailers should show 1080p, up-scaling 4K and native 4K side by side and indicated that “they should show LG’s content,” explaining that in 2014 top brands will supply content “in all four flavors.”
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