In 2009, the number of television sets per U.S. household averaged 2.6; by 2015, that dropped to 2.3. While the official U.S. government numbers haven’t been updated since, indications are that the average is quickly dropping, as more and more people use their phones, tablets, or laptops for solo entertainment, only moving to a big screen for group viewing, if at all.
Chris Larson, a senior vice president for TV manufacturer TCL, acknowledged the downward trend at the company’s CES 2020 press conference.
“We want that main spot,” said Larson. So do the other TV manufacturers, of course.
How to grab it? LG is still talking about the beauty of OLED displays, Hisense thinks laser projection displays will get consumers’ attention, and TCL is counting on improved contrast offered by mini-LED backlights to make it stand out.
The TV manufacturers seem to recognize, however, that, these days, it will take more than bigger and brighter and blacker displays to get people who are thinking about clearing TVs out of their homes to instead bring in a new big screen.
One coming new feature several manufacturers hope will prove compelling enough—Filmmaker Mode, developed by an alliance of consumer electronics manufacturers, movie studios, and directors that will allow movies and TV shows to be easily displayed with the various brightness and contrast settings that will best duplicate the theatrical experience in the home.
TV makers are also trying to better accommodate gamers. TCL executives think the best way to entice millennials—who may be used to their personal devices and have never purchased a traditional TV—to buy that big screen is to appeal to gaming, with variable refresh rates and other game-friendly features. LG also touted the features its big screens offer gamers, announcing compatibility with Nvidia’sG-Sync variable refresh rate technology. THX is getting into this effort with its THX-Certified Game Mode.
And if nothing else will nudge TV replacement sales, how about a new standard? ATSC 3.0, a.k.a NextGen TV, will be rolling out in 2020, preparing TVs to receive free, over-the-air broadcast television in 4K resolution. Broadcasters in the top 40 U.S. TV markets have announced plans to begin NextGen broadcasts by the end of 2020.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.