bigscreentvThe biggest exhibition of consumer electronics, CES 2014 in Las Vegas, has just finished, and it gave everyone a chance to look at the innovations coming our way this year. But here’s the thing: The big TV manufacturers are scared that people are not going to buy new sets because they don’t have a reason to upgrade.

Some of the TVs on display this year could arguably be described as the best ever produced. Innovations designed to capture the imagination of consumers include:

  • “4K Ultra HD” resolutions
  • 120 inch screens (that’s bigger than some of my walls!)
  • Curved screens
  • Voice and gesture control
  • OLED screen technology
  • Internet video streaming integration

However, this trend of adding new features has accelerated over the past few years, because its becoming harder and harder to convince people to buy a new TV. Now that the majority of people have an HDTV, whether its 32 – 42 inches, most people find that their current set is sufficient for their needs. Over all, in the year that ended in November, TV makers sold $15.5 billion worth of sets in the United States in 2013, down about 4 percent from the same period in 2012, according to NPD. Worldwide, manufacturers shipped 155.4 million television sets in the first three quarters of 2013, down about 3.6 percent from the same period in 2012, according to NPD DisplaySearch.

In fact, there is a limit to how much resolution the human eye is able to recognise depending on how big a screen is and how far away it is. For most appartments that cannot fit a 50+ inch screen, you wouldn’t actually be able to tell the difference between an HDTV and a new 4K TV. The chart below shows the preferable screen resolutions and sizes.

Ideal screen resolutions for various screen sizes for people with good (20/20) vision.

4K resolutions are just one of the most recent innovations which manufacturers hoped would convince their target customers that their current sets are no longer good enough. Does everyone remember the previous “must-have” feature that was going to convince everyone to upgrade: 3D TV? Well, at CES 2014 3DTV has been more or less declared as dead, with some of the major manufacturers saying they will no longer include the feature. A recent survey even found that 8 out of 10 consumers who bought a 3D regret their decision.

People’s viewing habits have also changed from 5 years ago. Instead of the TV being the focal point of entertainment in the living room, many people now use their tablets or even their phones to watch TV content. Streaming services like Netflix even mean that some people are forgoing buying a TV altogether and use their “second screens” for all of their viewing habits.

Second screens are becoming the primary screen for TV content in more and more households

TV manufacturers have therefore reached an impasse where they are continuously developing expensive new innovations, but finding that consumers just aren’t seeing enough value in them to purchase. Samsung, the world’s biggest TV manufacturer, has even admitted that their innovation strategy needs to be changed in 2014. In his annual speech to employees, chairman Lee Kun-hee said the company needed to “get rid of business models and strategies from five, ten years ago and hardware-focussed ways,” The Wall Street Journal reports, quoting a statement sent to it by Samsung.

So what can these companies do to improve their chances of success? I would suggest that this is the time for them to start thinking of different ways to innovate. One of the most successful ways I often discuss with clients is to move away from just thinking about product and feature improvements to some of the other Ten Types of Innovation, which I’ve gone through in more detail in the previous blog post below:

So are you going to buy a 120 inch TV this year? Let us know in the comments below.