But Ultra HD, or 4K, is in its very early stages. Although prototypes and demonstration models have been around for years, the first sets for consumer use didn’t hit the market until 2012 with prices in the tens of thousands of dollars. Only about 60,000 Ultra HD sets were sold last year in the U.S., with 485,000 estimated this year, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.
Today, the lowest-priced Ultra HD TV being sold on Amazon.com is a 39-inch model from Seiki Digital for $500. The cheapest name-brand manufacturer’s model, a 58-inch screen from Toshiba, sells for $2,750. And LG announced this week it would sell an Ultra HD set as small as 49 inches diagonally, which could bring entry level prices closer to $2,000 for top brands. Sharp’s new Quattron+ brand, which brings near-4K resolution to sets by making better use of HD pixels, plans to price a 70-inch set around $3,200.
While those price tags are only likely to appeal to early-adopters, they’re getting closer to prices people currently pay for big screens running only HD.
But that still isn’t close enough, said James McQuivey, principal analyst with research firm Forrester. “These TVs won’t actually sell well as long as they are priced high, something TV makers already know because in the last year they’ve dropped prices considerably,” he said.
To entice consumers even further, a handful of content companies promised to make more movies and shows available for the super-sharp screens.
Netflix Inc. CEO Reed Hastings made the rounds at news conferences Monday to declare that the streaming video company is working on distributing 4K video over the Internet. Hastings said all Netflix original series are being shot in 4K and that the company is working with studios on formatting movies and TV shows in 4K, with one of the first series being Sony’s “Breaking Bad.”