Smart TV surges in popularity worldwide

MUMBAI: Over one-quarter of TVs shipped during Q1‘12 were equipped with internet connectivity, as reported in the new NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Smart TV Shipment and Forecast Report, which tracks connected and smart TV shipments by brand, region, display technology and screen size.

Approximately 27 per cent of TV sets shipped worldwide had internet connectivity, led by Japan, where 46 per cent of sets had networking capability, and Western Europe with 36 per cent. In a good example of how internet entertainment is developing rapidly in emerging markets, China followed closely behind Western Europe with 32 per cent of sets that shipped having internet functionality.

In the report, NPD DisplaySearch further analysed TV sets by service type. Basic connected TVs can access structured services from broadcasters such as Hbb.TV in Europe, BBC‘s iPlayer in the UK, Hulu in the US and AcTVila in Japan. Netflix and YouTube also offer such services.

According to NPD DisplaySearch, a smart TV can access a branded portal and service, not just publicly available platforms such as YouTube, or broadcaster services. Within this definition of smart TV, there are sub-categories that differ in the nature of the control of the service offering:

- ‘Set maker controlled‘ sets can have unique services from a portal. No two brands are alike, and the services may be configurable as apps.

- ‘Consumer controlled‘ sets can escape the constraints of a portal and allow the consumer to access the whole internet. These sets typically have a browser inside.

The report indicates that nearly 20 per cent of all TVs shipped worldwide were smart TVs, the highest being in Japan with 36 per cent, with China a close runner-up with 30 per cent. The feature was also strong in Western Europe, over 29 per cent of the first quarter shipments were of smart TVs. All regions were over one-in-ten, with North America at 18 per cent.

NPD DisplaySearch director of TV Electronics Research Paul Gray said, "Connected TV is largely driven by content. Where there are compelling things to watch, the internet becomes a major source of entertainment. We are now seeing a second stage of evolution as internet video relocates from a PC screen onto the TV screen. In particular, Chinese consumers have found plenty to watch on the internet, so internet connectivity follows."

One of the more surprising findings from the report indicates that no region is being left behind. Developed regions can be expected to have high shipments, and areas with low broadband uptake such as the Middle East and Africa also show a strong interest in internet connectivity.

"It is an interesting trend. There are countries in emerging regions where mobile broadband far outnumbers fixed lines, so consumers are looking to share mobile content on a big screen" added Gray.

By region, the largest shipments were in China with almost three million smart TVs shipped. Western Europe was second, with 2.1 million units shipped, while North America was third with almost 1.4 million units shipped. Strong seasonality linked to the Lunar New Year holiday helped increase shipments in China. Western Europe showed weaker demand as consumers there tend to exhibit more caution toward smart TVs.

By region, the report finds that open internet access is dominant in China, as consumers have a shortage of structured services and want to look elsewhere for content to view. However, 2012 models from all major brands incorporate browsers, and this feature trend is likely to proliferate outside of China.

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