There will be plenty of new televisions in 2021, but for theat CES. Instead of filling with jumbo screens to wow hundreds of thousands of attendees, TV makers like Samsung, LG and TCL will host virtual events online -- just like , and others during the .
That means people like me will be covering the latest in TV tech from the comfort of our homes and apartments (for the most part). At CNET we'll still host live discussions and events over video chat and you can expect to read plenty of articles about new TVs during the first couple weeks in January, but the wow factor and sizzle won't be the same. I'll do my best but let's face it: Samsung's 292-inch MicroLED, LG's OLED wave or the .isn't quite big enough to hold
Because CES is "all-digital" this year, I also don't expect there to be quite as much to talk about. Some TV makers will use the lack of a physical show to tout big products early, like the. Some will make new TV announcements later in the year, closer to their spring launch dates, rather than compete for coverage space at CES. And crazy concepts like don't translate as well to Zoom presentations.
There will still be plenty of TV news at CES 2021, however. Buzzwords like, and will nab their share of headlines, TV makers will promise better image quality, bigger screens and add-ons of dubious usefulness and the show will provide the first glimpse of of 2021. Here's a preview of this unique iteration of CES featuring insights from Stephen Baker, vice president of Industry Analysis at NPD Group, a market research firm.
Lots of Samsung, TCL and LG, less Vizio and Hisense
I'll start with the basics. Here are the top five US TV brands by units sold and dollars (the number of TVs and the amount of money spent on TVs). Like all the data in this article, it's from NPD and applies to 2020 through Cyber Monday week, ending Dec. 5.
2020 market share by brand
Three of the five biggest brands will likely show off new televisions at CES, but two will definitely sit it out. Vizio confirmed to CNET that it won't announce any new TVs at CES 2021 -- despite a massive presence in previous years,. Hisense also typically , but this year a company representative told me new models for the US market would instead be revealed "closer to their availability dates" in 2021.
Will 2021 finally be the year of 8K TV? Probably not.
2020 was a massive year for TV sales in general -- they grew an incredible 20% year-over-year -- and Samsung in particular, which sold nearly half of all the TVs over $1,000 and actually increased its already dominant market share by another 3%. Many of Samsung'slast year , but sales of 8K TVs will likely remain tiny in 2021.
"No change in the prognosis for 8K," Baker told me. "It remains a product without much demand or differentiation right now." He doesn't expect 8K to exceed 1% of sales volume until 2022. I still expect Samsung, LG, Sony and TCL to announce 8K TVs at CES (TCL, for record, haseach of the last two years and failed to deliver) but I don't expect many people to buy them.
2021 will be the year of the huge TV (just like 2020 was)
"TVs keep getting bigger," says Baker. "The most remarkable trends this year are how quickly consumers saw value in bigger screens and how much they recognized the value in newer, more modern technology to support their entertainment needs." These two trends go hand in hand: As people replace aging TVs they often get newer ones that are bigger.
Here's how much sales of larger TVs have grown in the last couple of years.
Sales growth by screen size
|70-inch and larger TVs||82%||58%|
CES often has gigantic, one-off TVs that either cost a fortune or aren't real products, but this kind of growth in truly gigantic screen sizes is real and likely to increase as long as big TVs keep getting cheaper.
One interesting counter note from Baker, however: "We expected a sharp drop off in smaller screen TVs, instead those sizes have grown alongside larger screens." I don't think that will translate into more small TV announcements at CES -- I'd be surprised to see a, for example -- but you never know.
Will OLED have any new tricks up its sleeve?
One of the biggest stories of CES 2020 was-based TV. Another was the finally going on sale. For 2021, I won't be surprised if LG tried to differentiate its OLED lineup even more, either with a new panel technology (OLED panels have remained basically unchanged, albeit excellent, for years) or some design trick -- maybe transparent OLED for consumers instead of just retail.
Speaking of new panels, here's also the possibility that we hear more aboutin which Samsung Display invested heavily last year. Initial production is scheduled to start in 2021.
More quick tidbits: gaming, smart TV and soundbars
- Now that and are available I hope more affordable TVs get gaming-friendly extras like -- but I don't expect to hear much about cheaper TVs at CES.
- had a huge year in 2020 but I don't expect much innovation in smart TV systems, which have largely leveled off. "Streaming has become a checklist item," says Baker, referring to its easy availability on numerous platforms. He says well over 90% of all TVs sold in 2020 were smart TVs.
- Over-the-air TV could make more headlines in 2021 as additional TVs get , which allow access to 4K antenna broadcasts and more. Last year were introduced. I also wouldn't be surprised to see separate NextGen TV set-top boxes announced.
- Home entertainment isn't just about TVs: saw the same 20% increase in growth, TV mounts saw a 31% jump and routers grew by 50% -- all products at or near the center of the home entertainment space. At CES, I expect the trend of TV-branded soundbars to grow (Samsung soundbars that work best with Samsung TVs, for example) and TV makers to continue making wall-mounting and other innovative TV-as-furniture solutions easier.
- Overall, Baker expects TV sales to decline in 2021 compared to 2020, but that's not a surprise given how much of a blockbuster year TVs had this year. "However it is important to point out that we expect 2021 and 2022 sales volumes to be above the 2017-2019 trend as consumers focus more on their entertainment choices and continue to update, upgrade and upsize their TVs."
In the TV industry as in so many other areas of life, 2020 was unique. The CTA has already announced that CES 2022 will take place in Las Vegas again. Meanwhile, for this year's virtual, all-digital show my most accurate prediction is the same as ever: CNET will have the latest developments from CES starting in early January. Stay tuned.