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The viewing experience: are UK consumers buying into the latest TV technologies?

TVs are ubiquitous in developed-country households. We stare at our TV screens to unwind, escape, be informed, and learn. Since 2004, our data shows that 60 million flat-panel TV sets have been sold in the UK, bringing the total market value in 2012 to £2.6 billion (approximately €3 billion). As the market evolves we see TV technologies transforming, and as consumers we are spoilt for choice with new features that enhance our viewing experience.

However, in 2012 sales in the UK TV market fell below £3 billion (approximately €3.5 billion) for the first time since 2005. The ‘jumbo’ television set (those with a 43-inch screen and above) was the only segment of the market to see growth in 2012 (compared to 2011), growing 10% in volume. These jumbo televisions often boast the latest technologies, such as 3D viewing, and Smart TV.

Liquid-crystal display (LCD) technology is continuing to be phased out by light emitting diode (LED), accounting for just less than three quarters of the total market value in December 2012. This is likely to continue, as some manufacturers have announced that LCD televisions will not feature in their 2013 ranges. Instead, LED and Plasma sets are taking precedence.

So are consumers choosing high-end television sets for a larger screen size, or for the new features which are pushed to us as the unique selling points? The fact that larger sets are being purchased does not necessarily mean that every buyer is proactively seeking out or engaging with the new technologies and features on offer.

Although these new technologies (such as 3D and smart technology) are widely available throughout a variety of TV ranges, the declining sales do make us question whether consumers are purchasing for such features. Indeed, consumers also seem to be buying more standard sets without the latest technology, for other rooms around the house.

Furthermore, despite all these new features to excite us, sales of traditional DVD-combi sets contributed to more than a quarter of the market volume in Q4 in 2012. These sets (a television with a DVD player built in) do not seem to have been affected by the recent digital switchover. They are being purchased for economic replacements for secondary sets which are not used as the main household television.

Consumers are purchasing bigger screen TVs, because it immediately and tangibly enhances the experience which is at the core of TV purchasing i.e. viewing TV programmes and movies. The challenge for manufacturers is to communicate the benefits of how additional, potentially unfamiliar features such as 3D and web browsing will enhance the viewing experience if they are to become conscious drivers of purchase for TV sets.

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