The United States will emerge as the leading market for 4K or Ultra HD televisions, with a prediction that nearly one in two homes in North America will own a display in 2020. Western Europe will not be far behind at one in three homes. The forecast suggests that Ultra HD will become the standard resolution for almost all large-screen televisions by that time. With limited programming currently available in this format, it may be some time before most viewers see the real benefits.

The report from Strategy Analytics says that demand for ultra-high-definition displays is increasing as entry-level prices drop well below $1,000.

Shipments of 4K or Ultra HD displays passed 12 million units, with 75% accounted for by the Asia Pacific region.

60% of all such sets shipped in 2014 were 50-inch or larger, while a quarter of all televisions of this size were Ultra HD.

Displays of less than 50-inches will become more widely available in 2015 and this category will account for the majority of Ultra HD shipments globally by the end of 2016.

Support for increased colour depth and dynamic range will be provided in premium displays in 2015, maintaining the price point at the top of the market.

The forecast is that global shipments of Ultra HD televisions will more than double in 2015 to over 27 million units, with 100 million shipping annually by 2018.

In North America the forecast is that 45% of homes will have an Ultra HD television in 2020. In Western Europe the forecast is for over 35%, while the global figure is put at over 20%.

David Watkins, the author of the report, believes Ultra HD will become standard for large screens. “Ultra HD will become the standard resolution for virtually all large screen TVs within 3 to 4 years’ time and we will see it penetrate further into smaller screen sizes as manufacturing efficiencies improve.”

“As we saw with the transition from SD to HD, it is the TV manufacturers who are leading the Ultra HD charge although significant steps are being made on the delivery infrastructure and content production parts of the value chain,” he said.

“As the inevitable price competition eats into the ability of the TV vendors to make any meaningful profit from selling Ultra HD TVs, many brands are adding support for wider color gamuts and high dynamic range in order to differentiate their models and charge a premium over ‘standard’ Ultra HD models.”

IHS DisplaySearch expects that nearly 240 million LCD televisions will be shipped in 2015, up from 223 million in 2014 and around 209 million in 2013. It predicts that 4K televisions will reach 32 million units in 2015, or around 13% of all shipments.

Manufacturers may be keen to promote new screens but there is currently comparatively little programming available in 4K or Ultra HD. Many displays will upscale existing high-definition material, but there is potential for consumer confusion.

The Advertising Standards Authority in the United Kingdom recently upheld a complaint against a major retailer that claimed 4K Ultra HD sets would allow purchasers to “watch your favourite Christmas movies in greater detail”. The authority said this was misleading.

Commenting on the ruling, Richard Lindsay-Davies, who heads the Digital TV Group, said: “Ultra HD represents an enormous opportunity for the TV industry to take the viewing experience to a level even greater than the leap from standard-def to HD, but exaggerating the offering at an early stage could damage consumer confidence before the true benefits come to fruition.”

Pay-television providers and online services are likely to lead the race to deliver 4K or Ultra HD programming to differentiate their offering. Many channels have only recently upgraded to high-definition and some have yet to do so. It may be difficult to justify a further upgrade until there are enough screens in homes but by then the market may have moved on.

Ultra High Definition TV Displays: Global Market Forecast is published by Strategy Analytics.