The high-definition TV market has matured rapidly during the past decade. In 2008, only 23 percent of U.S. households owned at least one HDTV, but by 2013, this number had risen to 75 percent, Leichtman Research Group claims. The number of households owning sets with 4K resolution, which stood at one percent in 2014, has climbed to 10 percent in 2016, and will reach almost 50 percent by 2020, according to Strategy Analytics.
This rapid transition has reshaped the nature of home entertainment and will continue to do so for years to come. Here’s a look back at how the high-definition TV market got to be where it is today, as well as a preview of where HD technology looks to be headed in the future.
The Development of HD Technology
The earliest high-resolution experiments date back to the 1930s and 1940s, when resolution was measured in lines per screen. In the beginning, TV resolutions had used as few as 12 lines. The first high-resolution TVs used 240 to 819 lines, introducing a technology called progressive scanning. Whereas traditional analog TV alternately drew odd and even lines across the screen to display an image, progressive scanning displayed each line in sequence. Here’s a brief timeline of the progression:
- 1953: U.S. analog color TVs were displaying 525 lines, representing the National Television System Committee (NTSC) color standard.
- 1960s: European TVs began using the Sequential Color with Memory (SECAM) and Phase Alternating Line (PAL) 625-line standards.
- 1979: Japanese TV makers began developed a 5:3 ratio commercial HDTV system.
- 1981: President Ronald Reagan witnessed a demonstration of Japanese HDTV, sparking U.S. development of the technology. But further development of analog HDTV was blocked by limited bandwidth.
The shift from analog to digital TV opened the door to today’s HDTV. During the 1980s and early 1990s, a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) committee considered different proposals for future television standards and decided to switch to digital. In 1996, a new digital standard was mandated for future DTV/HDTV broadcasting. It made its public debut with a broadcast of astronaut John Glenn’s Space Shuttle Discovery flight in October 1998.
Meanwhile, TV manufacturers transitioned from cathode ray tube displays to newer display methods. In the 1990s, TVs became thinner and lighter with the debut of plasma TVs and liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs. LCDs beat plasmas on price, and by 2006 they had taken a leading market share. LCDs used a new method to create colored images, blocking and filtering white LED backlight rather than directly casting light. Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) took this another step forward by using direct colored light, producing sharper contrast.
HDTV uses a standard called 1080p, which delivers a resolution of 1920x1080p, equivalent to 2,073,600 pixels per frame (2.07 megapixels). 4K Ultra HDTVs use a newer standard called 2160p, which increases this to 3840x2160p — four times the pixels and double the resolution of HDTVs.
Today’s cutting-edge display method is quantum dot (QD) display, introduced by Sony in 2013. A variation of LCD, QD display combines blue backlighting with nano-sized dots to deliver brightness and contrast comparable to OLED at a significantly lower cost.
The Future of HD
8K resolution, which uses 7680×4320 display, is being tested at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Sharp released the world’s first 8K TV last fall for $133,000. Samsung and LG followed up with 8Ks at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). As competition increases, prices should drop between now and the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, when Japan will test 8K broadcasting as a trial for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Meanwhile, Sharp is already developing 11K TV for the 2018 Olympics.
HDTVs are also becoming increasingly integrated into the Internet of Things. Samsung and LG both used this year’s CES to position themselves as leaders in the smart home market, portraying a future where TV remotes will control HVAC, lighting and security as well as entertainment. Security camera providers such are also positioning themselves to lead this new trend, offering 2K and 4K IP security cameras that can display crisp, high-resolution security images on your HDTV or Ultra HDTV screen. HDTV development and smart home technology will increasingly merge in the near future.