More than a quarter of all flat panel televisions shipped in 2011 are expected to have some form of internet connectivity. That number is forecast to rise to nearly half in 2015. By the end of 2015, DisplaySearch forecasts that over half a billion connected televisions will have shipped. Over a third of large screen televisions in North America will be smart displays, able to connect to the internet.

In 2011 an estimated 60 million connected televisions will ship, up from around 42 million the previous year. The volume of connected television shipments is forecast to grow annually, to reach 138 million in 2015. The forecast from DisplaySearch essentially assumes almost linear growth.

Western Europe is currently the largest market, accounting for almost 30% of connected television shipments forecast for 2011, while North America represents around 20%. Both markets are forecast to see significant growth in 2012, with around 27 million and 18 million shipments respectively.

By 2015, Western Europe and North America will each account for around 27% of the market, each seeing shipments of around 38 million connected televisions that year.

China will also see significant growth in connected televisions. “The adoption of connected TV is not just taking place in developed regions,” said Paul Gray, the director of television electronics research at DisplaySearch. “Emerging markets often have good broadband services and there is a thirst from consumers to get the best content available.”

Wireless connections will be an increasing feature of televisions, with technologies such as WiFi Direct allowing smart phones and tablets to connect more simply to the television. Nearly 100 million television sets with built-in wireless networking are forecast to ship in 2015.

“WiFi technologies are the foundation of smart TVs,” suggests Paul Gray. “We expect that in 2015, 35% of 46 inch or larger TVs in North America will be smart TVs, defined as having the following capabilities: able to retrieve content from the internet without the restrictions of a portal; intelligent search and recommendations; upgradeable by its owner; and able to network seamlessly with other devices in the home.”

The DisplaySearch Quarterly TV Design and Features Report is a quarterly update of the issues and rapid shifts in feature development in TV sets.