Ultra high-definition televisions (UHD TVs) have gained little ground in the flat-panel market because prices remain too high, according to a new report from IHS Technology.
Among the top 13 LCD display brands worldwide, the share of UHD TV shipments reached just 5% in May, up from 4% in April, 3% in March and 2% in February, according to IHS.
While UHD TV share has grown by 1 percentage point for each of the last three months, growth hasn't budged much since September, when the market was already at the 2% level.
The top 13 UHD TV brands account for more than 75% of total LCD TV shipments and represent more than 90% of overall UHD LCD TV shipments.
UHD TV shipments this year are projected to grow to 14.5 million units, up from just 2 million in 2013, as global brands deploy aggressive marketing efforts and roll out new models, according to IHS.
Flat-panel televisions overall amounted to 18.1 million units in May, down 6.4% from April but up 7% from the same time a year ago. Of the total, LCD TVs -- including UHD sets - accounted for 17.4 million units, with plasma TVs making up the remainder at 708,000 units.
"Growth in this year's global UHD TV market is a reflection of plans among TV makers, especially the Chinese, to increase sales. And expansion in UHD TV volume is mostly scheduled for the second half this year," Jusy Hong, an IHS principal analyst for consumer devices, said in a statement.
UHD TVs have much higher resolution than conventional HD sets, but the dazzling images come at a steep trade-off: their prices can be several times those of LCD TVs.
According to the Consumer Electronics Association, which hosts the CES conference, buyers still pay north of $50,000 for a 105-in. UHD-TV, while the average price for a 55-in. UHD-TV this year will be around $2,750. By 2017, that price is expected to drop to $1,850.
That compares to 1080p high-definition TVs (HDTVs) today that run anywhere from $700 to around $1,700 for a 55-in. model.
"In China, for instance, the share of UHD TVs continues to stay below 10% despite vigorous promotion by brands because high UHD-TV pricing acts as a barrier for wider acceptance," Hong said.
That observation, while true of China, the world's biggest TV market, can also be extended to the largest UHD TV markets worldwide, Hong added.
At last year's CES, manufacturers unveiled 75 new UHD-TV sets.
Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis for the CEA, said at CES that high-definition 1080p LCD TVs (HDTVs) will continue to dominate the market for the next several years. Televisions with 55-in. or larger screens, expected to be the best-selling models, will make up 66% of flat-screen shipments in 2017. UHD-TVs will represent 34% of the market in that year, according to Koenig.
Manufacturers have pitched several gimmicks to increase sales of UHD TVs, including 3D and curved screens, which experts say do little to improve viewing quality.
3D-enabled UHD TVs are quickly dropping away and there are no UHD plasma-display-panel televisions planned by manufacturers. UHD organic light-emitting-diode (OLED) TVs will be available at the end of this year. That technology promises larger, lighter screens with the ability to retain consistent color from even the widest of viewing angles.
Among UHD TV makers in May, China had the largest proportion of UHD TV shipments in relation to total LCD TVs, at 9%, followed by South Korea at 5% and Japan at 2%. South Korea, however, shipped more UHD TVs, thanks to the size and heft of its two makers -- Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics -- which also happen to be the world's largest TV manufacturers, IHS stated in its report.
The two South Korean makers accounted for 46% of total UHD TV shipments in May, compared to a combined total of 45% for the six makers of Chinese origin -- Changhong, Haier, Hisense, Konka, Skyworth and TCL.
Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.