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Ultra HD Rollout Carries HD Echo: IHS

Unit sales of North American Ultra HD TVs received the first big market push in 2014 and have encountered many similarities to the rollout of high-definition sets, according to forecasts from market research firm IHS.

Veronica Gonzalez-Thayer, IHS consumer electronics senior analyst, said 2014 U.S. UHD TV marketing efforts produced “more brands and screen sizes coming to market at more accessible price points, some of which will launch during the second half of the year.”

“UHD progression will be similar to that of HD, where device penetration preceded content availability and will eventually become the standard,” Thayer said. “The case of 3D is quite different: very limited content; most of the existing content didn’t have a great `3D effect’; the need to wear glasses — even the lightweight passive glasses; limited viewing angles; eye-strain, etc.”

Gonzalez-Thayer added, “To downplay the lack of native 4K content, TV manufacturers have added upscaling or up-converting technologies to their UHD TVs, and have also announced partnerships with the likes of Netflix and (more recently) Amazon to stream UHD content.”

She added that while UHD TVs now offer retailers and manufacturers healthy margins, the window for profit taking may be small. “Pricing for UHD TVs has already decreased sharply since launching less than two years ago,” she observed. “However, UHD TVs will continue to maintain a price premium over FullHD TVs in the next few years.”

The IHS analyst added that recent news of the plans for a 4K Blu-ray Disc spec should help to boost interest in UHD set late next year and beyond.

“4K Blu-ray format is not expected to reach the market until late 2015, but it will definitely help drive purchases for UHD TVs,” she said. “Nevertheless, this is just one way that consumers get their content, other delivery methods, particularly OTT and pay TV, are also important for the success of UHD TVs.”

Gonzalez-Thayer said she believes that UHD ultimately will “help boost the TV market and give way for a new replacement cycle, and as I mentioned before, we can expect that the impact will be similar to HD.”