Electronics makers from every consumer device manufacturing segment are betting big on 4K: Shipments soar 699% in 2014

There isn’t really much 4K UHD content available, but that doesn’t mean companies that make electronics and their manufacturers aren’t fully ‘all in’ to help get the 4K/UHD ball rolling, already bringing the heat in their marketing for 4K capable TVs.

We predicted the holiday season would be huge for manufactures, and a new report from Futuresource Consulting says shipments of 4K/UHD sets exceeded 11.6 million units in 2014, a 699% increase from the previous year.

“We are seeing several 4K video services now available in the market, driven by over-the-top (OTT) video services, and we are beginning to see signs that broadcasters support will be forthcoming,” commented Sarah Carroll, director of sales and marketing for Futuresource. “However, with 8K on the horizon, there is speculation as to whether the window for 4K will be short-lived.”

It’s worth noting that the only serious discussions taking place about 8K content currently are among Japanese operators who see the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as an opportunity to showcase the technology. Last March, public broadcaster NHK said it plans to begin testing an 8K service by 2016 with the express goal of having it ready and deployed for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. 8K broadcasts produce a resolution of 7680 x 4320, double that of current 4K, which produces 3840 x 2160.

Scientists say most humans may not be able to discern the difference between 4K and 8K, and some in the industry say it will take decades for consumers to adopt the 8K format.

Futuresource predicts that some 100 million UHD sets will ship annually by 2018, increasing the share in leading markets to about 20%. Futuresource suggests that one of the market drivers in coming years will be reduced screen sizes on the 4Ks, and that can be counter intuitive in terms of why users would want Ultra HD… after all, the bigger the screen, the better UHD looks against current HD video.

China currently is leading worldwide demand, but it’s a narrowing gap with the rest of the world; China got 84% of the 4K/UHD sets shipped in 2013, but just 70% of them last year.

4K won the war against 3D TV handidly as the next product to keep the huge manufacturers churning out happiness in a screen – there were, after all, a lot of predictions that 3D success was “imminent” before people realized that the tech wasn’t developed enough for mass appeal. So the concept of UHD is generally more appealing to consumers, as well as to operators who see it as a pathway to the millennials.