Over a quarter (27%) of the TVs shipped in the first quarter of this year had Internet connectivity, according to a new report from NPD, led by Japan, where 46% of new TV sets had Internet connections.
Western Europe came in second with 36% of new sets shipped in the three month period having Internet connections, followed closely by China with 32%, according to the study.
Under the definitions used for the report, a connected TV is capable of accessing video content on the Internet (whether that be ubiquitously-available services like YouTube or structured services from broadcasters), while a smart TV can access a branded portal or service.
Within the report’s definition of smart TV, there are two sub-categories: “set-maker controlled”, which can have unique services from a portal, and “consumer controlled” sets, which can escape the constraints of a portal and allow the consumer to access the whole internet, typically having a browser inside.
NPD found that nearly 20% of all TVs shipped worldwide in the three months to March 2012 were smart TVs. Japan led this area, with 36% of its TV shipments being smart TVs, while China was a close runner-up with 30%. The feature was also strong in Western Europe, where over 29% of Q1’12 shipments were of smart TVs. All regions were over one-in-ten, with North America at 18%.
“Connected TV is largely driven by content,” said Paul Gray, Director of TV Electronics Research for NPD DisplaySearch. “Where there are compelling things to watch, the internet becomes a major source of entertainment. We are now seeing a second stage of evolution as internet video relocates from a PC screen onto the TV screen. In particular, Chinese consumers have found plenty to watch on the internet, so internet connectivity follows.”
One of the more surprising findings from the report indicates that no region is being left behind. Developed regions can be expected to have high shipments, and areas with low broadband uptake such as the Middle East and Africa also show a strong interest in internet connectivity.
“It is an interesting trend,” added Gray. ”There are countries in emerging regions where mobile broadband far outnumbers fixed lines, so consumers are looking to share mobile content on a big screen.”
By region, the largest shipments were in China with almost 3mn smart TVs shipped. Western Europe was second, with 2.1mn units shipped, while North America was third with almost 1.4mn units shipped.
Strong seasonality linked to the Lunar New Year holiday helped increase shipments in China, according to the report. Western Europe showed weaker demand as consumers there tend to exhibit more caution toward smart TVs.
By region, the report finds that open internet access is dominant in China, as consumers have a shortage of structured services and want to look elsewhere for content to view. However, 2012 models from all major brands incorporate browsers, and this feature trend is likely to proliferate outside of China.
Brands’ shipment mix of smart TVs reflects their regional positioning, according to NPD. Chinese TV brands score well due to high shipments in their home market.