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I’m writing this column the Friday before InfoComm, the AV industry’s largest trade show. It takes place next week in Las Vegas and should be a doozy, what with all of the changes happening in our industry: 4K digital displays and media players, new IPTV “in a box” solutions, expanding use of wireless connectivity, high-power laser-illuminated projectors, and next-generation display interfaces looming on the horizon.

Concurrently, the NBA Finals are underway, with the workmanlike San Antonio Spurs in the process of routing the flashy, star-studded Miami Heat. When you watch a Finals game on TV, the broadcast will frequently show a “game reset” graphic, which shows you which team has the possession arrow, how many fouls players have accumulated, and how many timeouts each team has left.

So before I leave for Las Vegas, I’m going to offer a “game reset” as we approach the mid-point of 2014. (Wow, did those six months pass by quickly, or what?)  There’s been lots of news about consumer electronics, TVs, 4K, China, Netflix, and video streaming recently – here are some of the headlines that grabbed my attention.

Sony TV Sales Rise 30% as Viewers Ready for World Cup (Bloomberg): Finally, some good news for a legendary CE brand that has seen an endless series of setbacks, including another whopping financial loss for its most recent fiscal quarter. According to Bloomberg, sales of Sony televisions during Q1 ‘14 generated $2.15B in revenue for the company, an increase of 30% over Q1 ’13.

While encouraging, that number doesn’t being to approach rival Samsung’s $9B revenue. But it at least keeps Sony in the game and earned them the #4 spot in sales rankings after Samsung, LG, and TCL. Sony forecast that 16 million TVs would be shipped this year, but claims it can still make money with a few as 13.5 million TV shipments. Keep in mind that Samsung and LG accounted for 40% of all TV shipments in the quarter, so Sony still has some ground to make up.

4K TV Shipments Are Taking Off (Business Insider): Two weeks ago, BI released a report that stated 4K (Ultra HD) TV shipments reached the “million per month” plateau this past March, and should hit 15 million by the end of the year. That’s nothing to sneeze at – with current TV shipment levels, Ultra HD would account for 7.5% of all worldwide TV shipments through December.

Falling prices have a lot to do with, as does the growing desire for bigger TV screens. BI states that the average selling price for 4K-capable televisions has dropped 86% worldwide in just two years, falling from $7,851 in 2012 to $1,120 in 2014. Last weekend’s HH Gregg sales flyer featured the LG 55-inch 55UB8500 120Hz Ultra HD LCD TV for just $1,999 – a discount of almost $1,000 from its original price – while Vizio has already gone on record saying they will have a 55-inch Ultra HD smart TV (no 3D) shipping later this year for $1,299.

Streaming video is greener than watching DVDs (Advanced TV):  This story was intriguing, as it details research by Northwestern University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories that claims streaming movies and TVs shows is much more eco-friendly than watching them from an optical disc, such as the DVD or Blu-ray format. Researchers developed a model called “life cycle analysis” and studied five different ways of viewing movies, calculating the energy used and carbon dioxide emissions attributed to each method.

The test model required accounting for the energy used to manufacture DVDs; to transport DVDs by truck; to drive to and from local stores and rental locations to obtain discs; to stream movies over the Internet; and to manufacture and operate the DVD and Blu-ray players ultimately used to watch the movies. With no 4K standards in place yet for Blu-ray and sales and rentals of optical discs continuing to drop each year, will streaming become the de facto format for 4K content delivery?

49% Of U.S. Households Have a TV Connected to the Internet (Leichtman Research Group): It should be no surprise at all that almost half of all U.S. households now have a television connected to a wired or wireless network. And that’s because Netflix streaming now accounts for about 34% of all evening Internet traffic. The LRG study shows that 49% of Netflix subscribers watch video via a connected TV or other device (Roku, Blu-ray player, game console, computer) on a weekly basis.

Non-Netflix subscribers aren’t as enthusiastic, with only 8% of them using their Internet-connected TVs on a weekly basis. And 78% of survey respondents say they watch Netflix on a TV, and not on tablets, phones, or computers. Interestingly, 47% of all households surveyed get Netflix, Amazon Prime, and/or Hulu Plus, and 34% watch any streaming video on a daily basis.

Cisco says 4K IP Traffic Rising (Home Media): Finally, Cisco’s forecast for “visual networking” and service adoption predicts that 4K (Ultra HD) streaming video will account for 11% of all IP video traffic by the year 2018, a massive increase from last year’s paltry .1%. 2K HD video will constitute 52% of all IP video traffic over the same time period, with SD video streaming dropping to 37% from its current 64% share.

Cisco goes on to say that more than half the world’s population will have an Internet connection in 3.5 years with half of that attributable to mobile devices. In 2013, the average bandwidth used by an Internet customer was 15 GB a month, and that is expected to double by 2018. Now here’s a fun number to wrap your head around: Annual Internet traffic is expected to grow nearly three-fold to 1.6 zettabytes (ZB) by 2018! According to the story, “That is more than 13 times than all the IP traffic generated in 2008 or the equivalent of 1 billion DVDs being downloaded per day.”

OK, the referees are signaling our timeout is over. Back to the game!

Posted by Pete Putman, June 13, 2014 12:56 PM

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About Pete Putman

Peter Putman is the president of ROAM Consulting L.L.C. His company provides training, marketing communications, and product testing/development services to manufacturers, dealers, and end-users of displays, display interfaces, and related products.

Pete edits and publishes HDTVexpert.com, a Web blog focused on digital TV, HDTV, and display technologies. He is also a columnist for Pro AV magazine, the leading trade publication for commercial AV systems integrators.