CES 2020: The World of Television

Published January 13th, 2020

By: Matthijs Langendijk, Lead Smart TV Developer, 24i.

The beginning of each year is always a joy, as we get to see the latest developments in the world of television. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), many companies showcase their latest and greatest. It is also an opportune moment to look at the year ahead — which televisions we can expect, what technologies are pushing the boundaries and if anything is clearly standing high above the others. In the blog we take a look at the TV announcements and demonstrations we’ve seen during CES 2020.

Image: LG

The war on 8K continues

This time last year, we saw the first 8K televisions getting announced by LG, Samsung and others. Well, they are back with more. But before we dive into them, maybe it’s good to evaluate what 8K televisions actually can offer.

The amount of 8K content is still virtually non-existent. So that’s not what you should be getting it for. SmartTV apps are generally also still running in Full HD, so what is the benefit there? In terms of pricing it also definitely isn’t mainstream yet. With 4K televisions starting around the €1000 mark, don’t expect 8K televisions to be cheap, yet.

Maybe it is still a bit too soon for 8K. But that doesn’t mean the progress on 8K television isn’t good. 4K started out the very same way, with there being virtually no content for it. The 8K association did announce a certification program at the end of last year, which will hopefully accelerate the adoption of the technology. Manufacturers are also definitely on board, so let’s take a look at their TVs.

LG

You could say that LG and Samsung have been in a bit of a battle when it comes to 8K. With LG claiming to offer a ‘Real 8K’ experience, they are definitely betting big on 8K televisions. They announced a whopping 8 models featuring an 8K screen. Two of them are OLED screens, coming at 77 and 88 inch. Next to this, there are 6 LCD models sporting LG’s NanoCell technology. That’s a lot of 8K. But are they more than just a screen with a high resolution?

Image: LG

Well, yes and no. The televisions are supporting most of the codecs you would expect; AVC1, HEVC and VP9, and you can also expect the relevant HDR technologies you’ve seen before. But that doesn’t make it interesting. What does however make it interesting, is their insanely thin television. As demonstrated in the image above, it is basically just a frame (ring any bells?) you put on a wall. If they manage to put all this technology into such a small television, I would be very much impressed.

Samsung

Samsung obviously can not stay behind in this warfare. And they definitely don’t, with their demonstration of the 8K QLED Q950-series. It is to most extent a pretty ‘normal’ 8K television. Supporting the AVC1 codec for 8K video, a custom SOC called ‘AI Quantum 8K’, so it basically hits the marks you would expect.

There is however a really interesting feature that makes it stand out: there are almost no bezels. The screen to bezel ratio is a whopping 99%, where you typically see a ratio of 94%. So you get more screen for the TV that you have, which is definitely standing out among the 8K televisions announced.

Image: Samsung

Sony, TCL and… Skyworth?

LG and Samsung are obviously not the only manufacturers showing their 8K goods at CES. We’ve seen 8K televisions many of the manufacturers you know and love. Sony has joined the party with a single 8K model, that sadly still features the same processor as last years’, which is a bit disappointing. TCL demonstrated their 8K models sporting their new so-called Vidrian Mini-Led technology, which seem promising.

The odd one in the bunch, is a to me previously unknown manufacturer: Skyworth. This Chinese company, last evaluated at 19 billion dollars, has made a big effort to make their debut on the US market known. They had previously been selling budget televisions in the US already, but their name hasn’t been big. Until now, perhaps. With their announcement of various 8K and OLED televisions, it is yet another party trying to take a chunk of the television market. Which means yet another brand to get your apps on.

TV Tech

Nice resolutions are great and everything, but what about the technology behind them? I’ve already mentioned some of the video codecs supported to get 8K content going, like AVC1. But besides this, what more can we expect that content owners should be wary of?

Operating Systems

I have to admit, I am a bit pleased by this fact: there is no new operating system announced! As a Smart TV developer, we already have to deal with a lot of operating systems and their variants. The operating systems we all know and love will continue as expected: Samsung still puts all bets on their own Tizen, and LG following the same with their WebOS platform.

On the other hand, we have Roku and Android TV which both are doing very well in gathering more support. Roku boasts many partners using Roku on their TV, with TCL, Hisense and others announcing multiple TVs this year. Oddly enough, the same brands also have announced televisions with AndroidTV. Philips is another manufacturer betting on two horses, having both televisions with Saphi, their own operating system, and others with AndroidTV.

Image: Roku

At CES last year, we have seen the same thing as we have this year. A version-up with minimal changes here, another TV with AndroidTV or Roku there. Given these limited changes and additions, I don’t expect any issues for current-gen applications. Most will continue to work with minimal effort on the new televisions announced.

ATSC 3.0

The new kid on the block has to be ATSC 3.0. In short: ATSC 3.0 is the latest version of a standard, describing how television signals should be broadcasted and interpreted. Dubbed as ‘NextGen TV’, the standard is a big step towards getting a clear interface for bringing 4K TV, HDR and other new technologies into your home. Many TVs announced at CES, support the standard, opening up the way for a broad adoption of the standard.

So we will have a nice new standard, that will hopefully unite the way broadcasting is done. But that is not all it defines. ATSC 3.0 specifies so-called ‘Interactive Content’, a way of developing and presenting applications on televisions. Now, this may be going against my claim of not having other operating systems for application support. But the ATSC 3.0 standard is actually really good. It defines clear ways of developing applications with web-technologies like HTML, JavaScript and CSS, similar to what HbbTV does.

Given that many manufacturers have opted to support the standard in their new product lines, this can potentially make app-development for SmartTVs a lot easier. If the standard is properly implemented on all brands, the possibility opens to develop an application once, and deploy everywhere. Now, we’ve seen this before with HbbTV, where the application standard was ‘loosely implemented’, so time will have to tell if the application standard is going to work well. But it is definitely worth investing into, as many brands have started supporting the standard in their new line-up.

Noteworthy mentions

Like last years, most manufacturers showcased their new line-up sporting 4K, OLED, QLED, HDR and other technologies. Panasonic is one of them. And their new 4K OLED flagship is definitely very beautiful, which will definitely be favoured by many. Philips also announced a bunch of televisions in sizes ranging from 43 to 75 inch, catering to basically everybody, including gamers. Vizio, third highest selling manufacturer in the US, is finally adding OLED models to their line-up, making OLED yet a bit more accessible.

Image: Panasonic

Last year we also saw LG showcase their upwards-rolling television. It was expected that they would launch last year already, but they sadly haven’t yet. At CES this year, they showcased more rollable televisions. And now they can also roll downwards from the ceiling. LG expects to have some of these models up for sale somewhere this year, starting around €60.000. Given their price, they are sadly not for the masses yet, but hopefully the technology will develop further over the next few years.

So LG has the rolling televisions. Well, now Samsung has rotating ones. Yes, rotating. It still boggles my mind that this is now a thing. I am not sure if there is even a use case for it, but it is definitely interesting. Samsung showcased their rotating ‘Sero’ series. More details regarding the price and release date are still uncertain, but the feature is definitely an eye-catcher.

Image: Samsung

OLED is also finally getting smaller. Previously, the smallest OLED screen was 55 inch, which for many homes was too big and too expensive. However, both LG and Sony announced 48 inch 4K OLED televisions. With the smaller size, the entry price for OLED televisions will hopefully decrease as well. This could decrease the barrier a lot for people to finally move over to OLED televisions, and might have some interesting effects on sales, as Samsung still bets on QLED.

Appwise, there is also some news from CES. Apple has announced that their streaming service AppleTV+ is coming to LG, Sony and Vizio SmartTVs in the near future. Demonstrating Apple’s growing intent to reach more users with their service, regardless of which device is used.

Conclusion

Yet another year where many manufacturers are betting big on 8K. I doubt we’ll see the prices drop much though, so 8K will definitely be one bridge too far for the big public. 4K however will become a lot more mainstream with the addition of cheaper 48 inch models.

ATSC 3.0 could cause a shift in application development, as many brands have opted to already support the standard in their new line-up. However, Roku and AndroidTV are still big and used by a lot of manufacturers. LG, Samsung and Philips also still put a lot of focus on their own operating systems (WebOS, Tizen, Saphi). So don’t expect to be able to develop only one app for the foreseeable future.

In short, many developments could have an impact on the world of television. We will just have to wait and see what the upcoming year has to offer, when the TVs announced make their way to market. If you would like to know more about SmartTV, ATSC 3.0, HbbTV or anything else television, feel free to reach out through email or LinkedIn. Thank you for reading!

Also published on MEDIUM