Television has advanced light-years since the early days of black-and-white programming, and today’s flat screens look nothing like the bulky sets most American homes had just two decades ago. We now have access to thousands of stations, TV shows on demand, and recording capabilities. But TV has yet to reach its peak. This year alone we can expect to see five significant trends.
- 4K Becomes Standard
4K TVs came out several years ago, but it wasn’t until 2016 that prices dropped significantly to become comparable to standard TVs. As top manufacturers like LG and Samsung continue focusing on 4K resolution, you might be hard-pressed to find a non-4K TV in the coming years.
Why? For one, manufacturers are honing in on the tech to make 4K possible. Despite the fact that TVs with a 4K resolution have four times as many pixels as the standard 1080p TVs, costs are dropping rather than rising. To remain competitive on the market, manufacturers have had to adjust to consumers’ new expectations—a crystal clear resolution at an affordable price.
4K resolution is ideal for TVs 50 inches or larger, providing a sharper and more engaging image. Digital streaming networks like Netflix are starting to offer native 4K content, encouraging viewers to take advantage of crystal clear pictures—just make sure you have enough bandwidth to stream in 4K.
- HDR Tops the List as the Hottest TV Buzzword
When shopping for a new TV, expect to see plenty of models that offer HDR (high dynamic range). While ultra-high definition—another term for 4K—exploded a few years back, this year manufacturers are all about HDR.
HDR TVs have high contrast ratios and color accuracy. Even with a 4K TV, HDR can significantly improve the viewing experience. The picture will seem brighter and more realistic. There are four different types of HDR—Dolby Vision, Advanced HDR by Technicolor, HLG, and HDR10. HDR10 is the standard used by Amazon, Netflix, and other service providers.
Regardless of the type, we can expect to see most new 4K TVs integrating HDR capabilities and networks releasing HDR content. Just remember, if you purchase a TV with HDR, you’ll need an Ultra HD Blu-ray player on which to play HDR films. Already, the PlayStation Slim, PlayStation 4 Pro, Xbox One S, and multiple Blu-ray players are compatible with HDR content.
- Curved and 3D TVs Make an Exit
In the last few years, manufacturers set to revolutionize TVs with the introduction of the curved and the 3D models. Both survived only a few short years before many tech experts declared them a gimmick.
3D TVs disappeared as quickly as they arrived on the market. In early 2016, Samsung dropped 3D from all of its new TVs, and other manufacturers followed suit. While great on paper, many consumers couldn’t get on board with the additional, pricey equipment needed—and then there are those glasses.
Like 3D TVs, curved TVs made sense on paper. The idea was that with a curved TV, a person has an immersive viewing experience, similar to an IMAX movie. The caveat is that you must be sitting directly center. The viewing experience isn’t ideal for large groups scattered along an oversized sofa. Many manufacturers are still producing curved TVs, but we’ll likely see fewer of them hitting the market.
- More Networks Go Digital
Digital reigned supreme in 2016, and there are no signs of it slowing down this year. Consumers want to be able to choose what they watch when they want to watch it without interruption. As Netflix and Amazon expand from streaming services to production companies and creators of original TV shows, Hulu and major networks like Showtime and CBS are striving to catch up.
Earlier this year, Hulu announced its development of a live streaming service with a cloud DVR. The live service will feature content from CBS, Disney, Fox, Time Warner, and—if the deal goes through—NBCUniversal. Hulu anticipates launching the service this year for a price tag under $40 per month.
Hulu isn’t the only company improving its digital offerings. Sling is beta testing a DVR program, for instance, and in late 2016, AT&T launched DIRECTV NOW, which provides 120 channels of live internet-based TV. With so many options, 2017 may be the year cutting the cord makes more sense than ever.
- Smart Assistants Debut
Alexa and Siri have been a part of our lives for years, but smart assistants are now coming to TV to improve your viewing experience. Several speakers and 4K TVs will soon allow you to control them by voice with Alexa commands, from changing channels to turning up the volume. Amazon recently struck a deal with Seiki, Westinghouse, and Elements Electronics to give 4K smart TVs from these brands access to Amazon’s streaming service and Alexa.
Google is also jumping on the smart assistant train. Google Assistant will be available on Android TVs, the NVIDIA SHIELD TV, and select Sony smart TVs, allowing users to issue voice commands to take various actions, including launching apps and switching inputs.
With a smart assistant built in, you can integrate your TV and speakers with your other smart home devices and hubs, such as Amazon Echo or Samsung SmartThings. Add in If This Then That (IFTTT) recipes and just about anything is possible—pausing a movie when your washing machine ends its cycle or automatically turning down the lights when you turn on the TV.
What’s in Store for the Future
While we’re already set to see countless new TV trends this year, new features and technologies will continue popping up. Already, we’re hearing rumors of 8K TV broadcast trials, LED lighting, and other upgrades set to enhance your TV- and movie-watching experiences. While we don’t know which trends will surface next, we can confidently say that media viewing is only going to get bigger and better from here.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.