If I had to choose an industry not to be in as the digital world looms larger than ever, I might well choose printing (which reminds me: read the Sep/Oct issue of Euromedia here). In 2016, it is a savagely tough way to make a living. But not all that far behind on your list might be TV display manufacture.
Not too many years ago TV sets were such expensive pieces of kit that large parts of the world’s population rented them from specialist shops for fear of them breaking down. And ‘first world’ countries – no matter how small – had at least one set maker as a kind of national flag carrier: Ferguson or Salora, anyone? Today, even once mighty Japanese makers are all but out of the game.
Those that remain, even with their world-dominating market shares, are locked in a low margin price war, and saddled with long product lifecycles because reliability has improved out of site. Their only salvation is innovation. So, it is hardly surprising that when a new broadcast format comes along – suggesting a mass replacement market is possible – they are instantly all over it.
Who can blame them? HD, 3D, and now UHD have all seen many thousands of TV sets fly out of the shops with barely more than a ‘ready for’ sticker to really differentiate them from what the consumer already owns. What follows are technology refinements and upgrades that leave early adopters stranded and – even when they buy the right set – there are long waits for any content that actually uses the new format.
Is UHD leaving the consumer holding the bag again? Yes, but not as badly as before, is the answer. Some lessons have been learned – while HDR free sets are not great news, they do at least make existing HD look better. And while standards schisms over HDR don’t help, compatibility bridges are at least on everyone’s road map.
Plus, when buying UHD most upgrade to a bigger set anyway (this trend has to stop some time?) and also to Smart TV. A longish wait for readily available genuine UHD content will be forgiven – and the biggest reason for that is that in real terms, TVs, whatever the size and whatever the magic inside, have never been cheaper. Which is where we came in.