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April 4, 2012
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Long live the TV, and other screens

Keeping track of video display trends calls to mind the quote attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald about how it takes a first-rate mind to hold onto two opposing ideas at the same time and retain the ability to function. The trends regarding TVs, PCs, tablets and smart phones often appear contradictory. Distinguishing absolute numbers from growth rates is one way to keep them straight.

Metrics surrounding the computer tablet, a category dominated by Apple, have been especially fuzzy. At one point iSuppi was predicting that Apple would sell 36.5 million in 2011. (See graph.)

As it happened, Apple announced that the number exceeded 40 million, and analysts are now converging on the number 42.5 million. As for growth, whereas the forecast for 2012 iTab shipments once looked like 50 million, now analysts are expecting Apple to sell 62.5 million. (See the iTab consensus rundown here by SAP blogger Eric Lai.)

So how does that compare with PCs and TV? Stripping out 43 million from an estimate by research firm Canalys for total (including tablets) PCs of 415 million in 2011 gives us 375 million. Turned around, that suggests that non-iTab PC shipments outnumbered iTabs in 2011 by 9 to 1. Using 2011 data from DisplaySearch, TV shipments (250 million) outnumbered iTabs by 6 to 1.

In other words, although the tablet is coming on strong, the TV and PC markets outperform the sexy, thin-screen handheld in sales by many orders of magnitude. Add to that the smart phone category, which according to Canalys hit a record 488 million units shipped in 2011, and you have a better picture of the dominant devices.

A more detailed look would examine consequential trends within each of these segments; for instance, TV display screen technology, or the intelligence and connectivity that is powering the newest units, turning them into potential “multi-screen” connected TV endpoints.

The idea that TVs are part of the multi-screen landscape may be counter-intuitive. “Many of our customers think multi-screen is limited to iPads and 10-inch screens and below,” said Tom Lattie, Harmonic VP Product Management.

“That’s not the case. We have a number of deployments, trials and projects where many of the profiles are HD equivalent. Today, we have customers who are looking at 720p 60(Hz) full-resolution, full-frame rate. So they’re delivering those services to either a Roku or game console. These so-called multi-screen profiles are as big in resolution and bit rate as an IPTV service.”

Even as new screens emerge, the television remains the basic viewing platform. “TV is still at the core of the experience,” said Jeff Weber, VP Video Products at AT&T U-verse. “The second and third screen complement and enhance traditional TV viewing with content and services available across screens.”

International data indicate the TV’s resilience. The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) has average UK linear TV viewing in 2011 equaling the record high set in 2010 (28 hours, 14 minutes per week.) Eurodata reports that daily viewing in France rose by 15 minutes per day in 2011. According to Motorola Mobility, Germans watched 18 hours of TV and films per week in 2011, four more than in 2010. Recent data from Nielsen and Turner Networks put average TV viewing in the U.S. at about 34 hours per week.

Online video consumption, however, has soared. Last June, comScore clocked Germany with 45 million Internet users viewing an average of about 20 hours per month, the highest in Europe. At the same time, comScore counted U.S. Internet users watching 18.5 hours per month, up from 4 hours in 2008.

Videonet recently published a report on Scaling Multi-Screen TV, and this story is partly an extract from it. The free 5,800-word report considers how Pay TV operators can scale multi-screen services so they can eventually replicate their full content offer everywhere, fulfilling the vision of one service, available on different end devices. This report unveils some of the latest thinking on how to transition into efficient architectures and workflows, looks at the potential impact of MPEG-DASH and considers the impact of multi-screen Pay TV in the market. It includes insights from Swisscom, Comcast, HBO, Orange, Verizon, BBC, Netflix, AT&T, Heavy Reading, Parks Associates, Harmonic, RGB Networks, Nagra, Technicolor, Cisco and Alcatel-Lucent, among others. You can download the report from our website: ‘Scaling multi-screen TV.’  (This link takes you to the online report. There is a button bottom right where you can then download it as a PDF.)