CES 2017 Preview: TV Has Come a Long Way in 50 Years Since First CES

By: Brian Markwalter, ATSC Board of Directors and SVP Research & Standards at Consumer Technology Association

Color TVs were considered a luxury when the three broadcast networks released their fall primetime telecasts in color in September 1966 – just nine months before the first-ever CES® in June 1967. Indeed, color television was still such a novelty in the ‘60s that NBC’s Sunday night anthology series included the word “color” in its title, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.

Fast-forward 50 years. When the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)TM hosts CES 2017 Jan. 5-8 in Las Vegas – the golden-anniversary CES – attendees will witness technological revolutions in television every bit as transformative today as broadcasting entirely in color was a half-century ago.

Television at CES in 1967 was entirely analog, of course. And most TVs on the market then were black-and-white. (Color TV sales didn’t eclipse monochrome until 1972.)

By contrast, CES 2107 will be lit up by today’s 4K Ultra High-Definition displays with ATSC 1.0 tuners, and even some with early ATSC 3.0 tuners. The 4K UHD TVs at CES this year will feature innovative, technology enhancements like high dynamic range (HDR), wide color gamut (WCG) and higher frame rates that create an even more immersive viewing experience. That means richer, more lifelike colors and far sharper detail.

CES 2017 will also showcase the next wave of 4K UHD and HDR content and streaming services, as well as a wide variety of new products, such as Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc players and 4K cameras that support consumer-generated UHD content.

Today’s consumers are embracing 4K UHD TV even more enthusiastically than their parents and grandparents did color telecasts back in the day. CTA’s sales numbers support this.

Building momentum heading into CES 2017, fourth-quarter U.S. shipments of 4K UHD TVs totaled an estimated 4.5 million units, driving a robust 40 percent estimated increase in total 4K UHD sales for full-year 2016. In fact, CTA estimates that 4K UHD TVs accounted for 31 percent of all TV sales during the fourth quarter. And sales will continue to rise in 2017 as more brands and screen sizes are available at lower prices, new technologies such as HDR and WCG become more widely available and consumer demand increases.

CTA expects 60 percent of 4K UHD TVs sold in 2017 will be HDR-compatible, that is able to handle the HDR static metadata signaling standards from CTA and HDMI.

The growth in this category is remarkable. Just three years after being introduced to the market, cumulative sales of 4K UHD displays reached an estimated 18.6 million units. Compare these figures to the launch of ATSC 1.0 HDTVs in the early 2000s, when sales of reached 4.2 million units in their first three years.

CES 2017, with its plethora of new 4K UHD TVs, interactive services, advanced mobile devices and immersive audio systems, is a harbinger of the exciting ATSC 3.0 future.  Next Gen TV is poised to offer consumers the most immersive viewing experience and more viewing options than ever before, and CES is the place to best envision all this and more.

Long-time ATSC Board member Brian Markwalter is senior vice president for research and standards at the Consumer Technology Association, the trade association representing the $287 billion U.S. consumer technology industry. CTA owns and produces CES – the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies.