While the new TV is out of the reach of most consumers, Samsung has created a ripple that will surely turn into a wave of new mega-TVs the electronics industry will soon unleash from a variety of hardware makers looking to lure buyers with the next big thing. Although 3D TVs — also heavily promoted at CES in the past — have turned out to be a fad, 4K doesn’t look to go down that same route.
And that should have Hollywood worried.
If studios and their exhibition partners were concerned about an increasing number of moviegoers staying at home, the newest 4K TV sets hitting the market over the next year should amp up the anxiety.
Ultra HD provides four times the resolution of a standard high-definition TV currently found in most homes, displaying 8 million pixels rather than 2 million.
While movie theaters show images in 4096 x 2160 resolution, the newest Ultra HD TVs show them in 3840 X 2160, too close for comfort for theater operators. Because of that, expect exhibitors to demand a tighter hold on current release windows in order to protect ticket and concession sales.
Ticket sales this year were stable with 2012, if not slightly higher, according to the National Assn. of Theater Owners, at 1.36 billion sold.
But admissions could start to decline as prices of Ultra HD TVs decrease and consumers opt for more impressive home theaters.
Price points on the newest TV sets have already dropped fairly quickly, with Sears selling a 65-inch 4K TV from Seiki Digital for $2,999 during this holiday season.
The new 4K TVs are also smart TVs, providing access to streaming video apps like Neftlix, YouTube, Amazon and Hulu Plus. Some of those players already are experimenting with 4K streaming in order to be ready for the demand for more programming from buyers of Ultra HD screens.
Sony stepped up this summer to provide buyers of its own 4K TVs movies and TV shows through a new media streamer. And other studios already are filming their movies in 4K — Universal’s “Oblivion” was shot in the format — making the transition to homevideo easier.
The push to promote Digital HD, an earlier window than homevideo disc releases, could also bode well for studios as they look to sell more films through digital platforms and steer consumers away from rentals.
While most analysts believe consumers will likely purchase a 55-inch unit, Samsung’s 110-inch 4K TV provides a glimpse into what’s to come. Earlier this year, Samsung wowed CES-goers with an 85-inch unit providing crystal clear visuals on its massive screen. That unit cost around $40,000.
Samsung says it expects to sell most of its 110-inch TVs in China. But it already has 10 orders for the sets from buyers in the Middle East. The unit is also available in Europe but not yet in North America.
Global sales of Ultra HD TV sets are expected to grow from 1.3 million in 2013 to 23 million in 2017, according to NPD DisplaySearch.
As sales increase, Hollywood’s studio executives will likely be forced to take a closer look at the kinds of movies they greenlight, and the likely result will be slates filled with films that have a wide appeal and developed to be seen on the kind of big screens only multiplexes can provide. As a result, expect less risk taking and more sequels for years to come.