Key Points

  • 4K Ultra HD, or 4K for simplicity's sake, is the new TV standard that will lure consumers with the promise of a future-proof TV set that will deliver the best TV content, at the best possible resolutions. 4K has four times the pixel density of standard HD, but in practice only the largest screens will deliver audiences a noticeable improvement in picture quality.
  • Nonetheless, consumer uptake will come relatively quickly, because average selling prices of existing 4K sets have dropped a great deal and will drop much further, and content creators are getting on board. Half of all of North American households will have 4K-capable televisions by 2024, just ten years from now. The average selling price for 4K-capable televisions has dropped 86% worldwide in just two years, falling from $7,851 in 2012 to $1,120 in 2014.
  • 4K content will roll out much faster than standard HD content. The first wave of 4K content will come from streaming services: Netflix, Amazon Instant, YouTube, etc. These Internet video providers can instantly get 4K-quality video to end users without having to make significant investments in new infrastructure. Broadcasters will have to make a lot of upgrades in new hardware, and so will be slower to roll out 4K.
  • 4K television shipments will reach 11 million units worldwide by the end of 2016, but China will dominate this market. China currently accounts for 78% of 4K television shipments, according to NPD. And Chinese TV manufacturers are driving about 36% of 4K shipments globally.


Ultra High Definition (Ultra HD) made a huge splash at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Nearly every major television manufacturer announced a 4K-capable display during the Los Vegas-based electronics conference.

But many industry analysts rushed to throw cold water on the excitement surrounding the new digital video format. They pointed out that the TV industry and electronics consumers were both slow to adopt standard high definition, and consequently were bearish about the prospects for fast 4K adoption.

We think Ultra HD will actually roll out much faster than many industry analysts believe for two reasons: Prices for Ultra HD-capable televisions have fallen dramatically in just two years. Also, Ultra HD content will become available very quickly, thanks to the present-day pervasiveness of Internet-based (or over-the-top) video services.

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