Selling home cinema projectors to UK consumers has always been a tough ask. The latest stats suggest that sales of traditional home cinema models won’t improve significantly going forward, despite advances that make projectors more consumer-friendly. On the other hand, trends in the consumer market will see consumer demand drive growth in sales of New Era projectors suited to social sharing of content.
Front cinema home projection has been a cause of frustration in the UK. Resellers have looked enviously at their peers in other European countries where consumers have embraced the technology. Investment in new models has continued unabated as manufacturers develop new features to court buyers among the 6 or 7% of total projector sales in EMEA that fall into the 720p / 1080p models sold in the consumer market.
Although small this segment of the market has proved to be resilient. The latest figures from PMA Research suggest that the market for the traditional home cinema projectors will dip before climbing back to current levels (see chart 1) but there is no sign of dramatic growth. But, from this year onwards, any weakening in demand for traditional home cinema projectors will be taken up by higher resolution New Era models designed for ‘social content sharing’.
There are a number of reasons why traditional home cinema projectors are limited in their appeal. With the UK characterised as a ‘flatscreen market’, the dramatic price drops in the 50 – 55 inch TV category have done little to help projector sales. Online, 50 inch models are now selling for less than £400.
In addition, a lot of the difficulty in selling projectors to the consumer market has stemmed from outdated perceptions of what front projection home cinema is all about. Advances in home cinema projection technology (see the box on ‘Overcoming consumer objections’) have dealt with almost all of the barriers to consumer adoption of front projection – and yet, misconceptions continue to restrict the take up of installed or table-top models.
When the first home cinema projectors were introduced to the market there was a lot of discussion in the channel about the relative merits of the terms ‘home cinema’ and ‘home theatre’ (or ‘home theater’, as this was the description of choice in the US). Being of British origin, AV News has always gone with ‘home cinema’, but the sense of a special occasion created by the word ‘theatre’ is probably a better description of what’s happened to the sector in the UK. Enthusiasts want to create a sense of drama, the ‘wow’ factor or whatever you want to call it for movies, games and 3D – for broadcast TV, the majority prefer a flatscreen.
In the social media environment, the projector is starting to come into its own. Personal and pico projectors are not only easily portable but, crucially, the size of the image is not proportional to the physical size of device. Sharing content created or downloaded on a mobile device is an ideal application for a New Era projector and the increasingly widespread availability of higher resolution and higher brightness New Era projectors, such as the Vivitek’s Qumi Q5 (available this month) means that that compromises don’t have to be made in viewing quality.
For example, Qumi 5 has a brightness of 500 lumens, WXGA resolution, and a contrast of 3500:1 – more than adequate for sharing content among friends in an informal context. It has a built-in Web-Browser, using the Wi-Fi Qumi Dongle to connect to a WAP with Internet access. Connectivity options include HDMI for hooking up tablets, laptops and smartphones, and the little 490 gram works even without a power cord if you connect it to the detachable battery pack.
Holger Graeff, general manager for Vivitek EMEA explained: “In you want to spontaneously watch a video from the internet or play an online game with friends, Qumi is great to project it in a crisp picture that can easily go up to 2 meters diagonal projections. Qumi is the ideal companion for people who want all these options as well as a combination of a cool product with excellent technology.”
It is our conclusion that much of the UK business in the home cinema sector is driven by replacement, as successive generations of technology have offered higher resolutions, longer life lightsources and 3D. With 4K / UltraHD to come, this process will continue but the opportunities for incremental business are limited. While average unit costs of New Era projectors are lower, the potential for volume growth is considerable.