It's early days for 4K adoption, but its role in the TV ecosystem will change dramatically in the next five years, according to ABI Research. It predicts that despite limited 4K content, declining 4K TV prices will facilitate the expansion of the installed base through normal upgrade cycles — eventually.
The firm noted that the Asia Pacific (and notably China) is expected to lead 4K UltraHD TV unit shipments for the short term, but North America is anticipated to be the first region to eclipse 5% (in 2017) and 10% (by end of 2018) of TV households.
"Despite a very limited installed base there have already been a number of 4K trials from broadcasters, pay-TV operators, and satellite operators," ABI senior analyst Michael Inouye said. "While many point to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and Sochi Winter Olympics as highlights for 4K, these events will have a minimal impact on 4K adoption – it's simply too early."
While price remains the most critical factor for 4K TV adoption, over-the-top (OTT) services like Sony's Video Unlimited 4K service and display features such upscaling will help early adopters bridge the content gap and raise consumers' valuation of 4K as a TV feature, the firm said.
Researchers also noted that consumers are conditioned from the mobile market to perceive value in higher resolution screens, with marketing such as Apple's Retina Display exemplifying the experience. This halo should carry over to 4K TVs. In addition, as new products that support 4K hit the market, like the upcoming next generation of gaming consoles from Microsoft (X One) and Sony (PlayStation 4) or select Qualcomm Snapdragon 800-based mobile devices, consumer awareness will continue to expand.
"Unlike 3D, which required awkward glasses, 4K has the legs to become an industry norm," said practice director Sam Rosen. "This isn't a sprint, however, and it will take time for the necessary infrastructure, installed base of devices and content to come together before 4K becomes an integral part of how the typical TV household consumes video content."
Mainstreaming could start to happen as early as 2018 in some regions.
In the meantime, consumer awareness will increase. "Many consumers will have 4K panels without 4K content, or 4K game consoles without a 4K display, and will claim a superior 4K experience even though the technical merits are not quantifiable," Rosen said.