In the fourth quarter of 2013, nine percent fewer televisions were shipped in the U.S. than were shipped in the same quarter in 2012. That’s what respected research firm IHS Technology just reported, and I find those numbers very interesting because the reasons for them are likely not as clear as they may seem.
People are quick to blame the forever-recovering economy for the decline in TV sales. I say there are a couple more relevant factors at play here.
For one, HDTV is a mature technology. A commodity, albeit a relatively expensive commodity. The problem is that we’ve all had 10 years to buy one (or two) (or three) of them. Maybe America just doesn’t need that many more TVs. (Hence, the industry’s premature obsession with selling expensive Ultra HDTVs before Ultra HD content even exists.)
The other factor is that young people aren’t as beholden to television as Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are. Fewer and fewer youngsters are buying (or asking for) TVs for their dorm rooms or their bedrooms. They’re watching content on their smartphones, tablets, and computers. Unless they’re live sports freaks, there’s really no reason for any of them to have cable TV anymore. And they’re not going to be lining up for HDTV antennae to access local broadcast programming, either. Most of them have no idea what a broadcast network is or what “over-the-air” means. And really, it’s not terribly important that they do anymore. That knowledge is becoming more irrelevant by the day.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Ultra HD TVs, with four times the resolution of HDTVs and a true revelation when done right, will be a big hit in the marketplace, but that’s at least a year out, probably more, as Hollywood is just ramping up its production of native Ultra HD content.
But for now, we’ve got HDTV, and HDTV is old news. The CE industry knows it, and so do consumers. And now that we’re all waiting for Ultra HDTV to truly arrive (at least, those who even know about it and care), I’ll bet even fewer HDTVs are sold this year.
And fewer kids will be buying them. It’s an irreversible trend. In 10 years, probably sooner, we won’t even be talking about “TV” anymore. Just screens… of all shapes and sizes. The difference between a tablet and a TV will be irrelevant. Just another internet-connected screen.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.