8K TV is failing to appeal to consumers according to Omdia’s latest research, which found that just 2.7 million households worldwide are expected to have an 8K TV by the end of 2026.
The company reports that shipments of 8K TVs only accounted for 0.15% of all TV shipments in 2021. This translates to a little more than 350,000 units globally. Samsung shipped 65% 8K TV units, with none to Japan.
“It appears that 8K TVs have lost momentum,” Omdia senior research director Maria Rua Aguete said at a panel on the topic at the 2022 NAB Show.
8K is still gaining ground as an acquisition format, at least anecdotally, with increasing examples of shows such as Disney+ natural history feature doc Polar Bear being recorded at the highest resolution. However, that show, like any content outside of niche services in Japan, is only mastered and distributed at maximum 4K UHD.
With no convincing reason to buy 8K TVs (very little native content is available) the marketing is failing, says Omdia.
In Q4 of 2021, 95,500 8K televisions were shipped, an increase from 81,900 in the previous quarter due to seasonality. Shipments were led by China, although Western Europe and North America saw significant shipments as well despite an absence of 8K content. These shipments were weaker than in Q4 of 2020 and even Q1 of 2021.
Samsung, for example, shipped 18% fewer 8K TVs compared to the year before.
“China will not drive 8K compared to North America or even Western Europe, despite the large set sizes,” said Rua Aguete. “The price pressure is too high.”
She added, “We see no convincing market demand of further 8K service development. Even in Japan, where there is a true 8K channel uptake has been minimal.
“No regions hit the level of 1% of households with a large enough audience to become commercially interesting. With TV providers struggling with the economics of 4K UHD, it really seems that 8K TVs small audience appears unattractive to content producers.”
However, 8K streaming remains a possibility, even a probability. Earlier this year, UK sports broadcaster BT Sport completed the latest in a series of 8K tests ahead of a likely launch of a premium tier. There’s no deadline on this, and BT Sport itself is up for sale with Discovery and DAZN in the mix as buyers.
It’s likely that there will be further 8K innovation, perhaps even a service offered to rights holders for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this year.
Meanwhile, it’s possible, too, that a streamer of recorded shows, like Netflix, could launch a premium tier service for 8K content.
The world has only just gotten used to 4K UHD; many broadcasters including the BBC and NBC have yet to upgrade their services from HD. This will happen and so too will an 8K UHD service… in time.
The main drivers, as with 3D and arguably with 4K and HD TV, are the display manufacturers. It may well be that TV screens themselves will evolve in a different direction (flexible, curved, transparent, projected “wallpaper”) at a faster rate than advances in resolution alone. Perhaps consumers no longer look on resolution as key buying criteria and other form and functions will come into play.