TV Makers Promote “Feature Desperation”

The annual IFA conference on TV that is run by DisplaySearch and IFA took place in the new CityCube. A representative of IFA welcomed delegates and Paul Gray of DisplaySearch introduced the agenda.

The first content session was by Paul Semenza of DispaySearch who gave an update on the market.

There are significant changes in the ecosystems of technology over the years. He split recent years into “Pre-Modern” where the OS and software was the important thing and the chips in PCs. In TV, the brand was important and the content came from broadcasters. In phones, everything was wired and there was no choice.

The modern era was enabled by flat panel displays and by mobility. Now the PC OS & browser mattered and more attention was paid to the display. In TV, consumers have really looked at display size and features as differentiators, while new service providers arrived. The cord was cut in phones and wireless became the norm, with huge shifts in technology at every level.

Now we’re post-modern, and it’s about convenience in PCs and tablets and displays are important. In TV, the brand remains important, but user control has become more important and the displays have got better and better. In communications, OS ecosystems and apps matter, as does the phone maker and the displays and sensors have become critical.

In the early days, there was a lot of vertical integration in TV and there was “lock-in” by service providers. In PCs, Wintel became the dominant platform and in telecomms, the service provider was the key competitive factor.

Then, in the early 2000s, there was an explosion of TV brands, the LCD TV became commoditised and there was domination by the supply chain. In PCs, there was consolidation of brands and internet access became critical. In telecomms, Apple in particular broke the control of the service providers.

Now in TV there has been a lot of brand consolidation and platform confusion. Semenza said that there is “feature desperation” as TV makers have thrown features at users to try to differentiate. In the PC, there has been the rise of iOS and Android and a move to the importance of Amazon, YouTube and Netflix. There has been real commoditisation.

In telecomms, we have seen devastation of the “legacy” handset makers such as Nokia and a growth in importance of the supply chain as cost has been driven down.

Looking at consumer behaviour, the number of TV sets per household has been declining in developed areas, while there is still some growth in developing economies.

Connected TVs are becoming critical even in developing countries. In China, in particular, there is a big desire for connectivity to access different content. Consumers are using many different devices to “watch TV” from the internet and that is a big shift in behaviour over the last couple of years. This change has impacted TV design. FullHD has done better than HD and UltraHD might now start to take over. 3D didn’t demonstrate value to viewers, and Smart TV is doing a bit better, but LED backlighting has clearly shown benefits to users who have widely adopted the sets.

The TV market has flattened after great growth during FPD introduction and digitisation. The next (low) wave of growth is about demographics, without real double digit growth. There are still some CRTs (I didn’t spot a PDP at IFA except for Panasonic showing an old one).

In PCs, tablets have grown hugely to replace many of the functions of notebook and desktop PCs. There has been a slowdown, but DisplaySearch expects a boost in growth next year, but convenience is the driving factor.

Smartphones are the becoming the standard and have driven out both feature phones and other single purpose mobile devices. Prices are being driven down, but there is a great level of performance expected.

The new extensions of mobility are in “personal networks” such as smartwatches and fitness products. There will also be a boost in the use of displays in the automobile market. Smart vehicles are becoming much more sophisticated and the ability of cars to collect, process and display data is very impressive, Semenza said.