Analyst ABI Research is predicting that falling 4K TV prices will lead to an expansion in the number of sets among consumers through normal upgrade cycles, but not until 2018 and beyond.
According to the firm, the Asia Pacific region (and China in particular) is expected to lead 4K TV unit shipments in the short term, but North America is anticipated to be the first region to reach 5% of TV households in 2017 and 10% by the end of 2018.
To put that into some sort of context, HDTV grew from 25% of all US households to 75% of all households in the five years up to 2013, with the majority of the 75% now having more than one HD screen.
"While many point to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and Sochi Winter Olympics as highlights for 4K, these events will have a minimal impact on 4K adoption – it's simply too early, " commented ABI senior analyst, Michael Inouye.
The firm points out quite reasonably that this is not an awkward upgrade cycle such as 3D represented, but one that follows the HD path and that fits into the natural order of replacing sets and buying bigger screens as prices drop and old kit wears out. And as more services come online and peripherals become available (Sony's Video Unlimited, Netflix, next gen consoles etc) so 4K will gradually start permeating consumer's living rooms and their buying consciousness.
It even suggests that some of the marketing gumph touting the advantages of high res screens such as Apple's Retina Display will spill over into the 4K arena. However, it's interesting to note that its predictions of mass market penetration are verging closer to the pessimistic end of recently forecast timescales.
"4K has the legs to become an industry norm," said practice director Sam Rosen. "This isn't a sprint, however, and it will take time for the necessary infrastructure, installed base of devices and content to come together before 4K becomes an integral part of how the typical TV household consumes video content."