AV analysts reveal shifts in home entertainment market

4K TV, vinyl and soundbars enjoying strong markets

The home entertainment market is experiencing its biggest shift in a decade, according to analyst GfK. Speaking at an annual conference of UK hi-fi trade body The Clarity Alliance, it said the move from conventional AV separates to soundbars and multiroom is reshaping consumer electronics. 

'Six years ago, the big story was home theatre, but now that has pretty much disappeared,' said GfK spokesman Nick Simon. 'Now 66 per cent of all home audio sales are connected audio systems, Bluetooth speakers, multiroom and soundbars.' 

While the various AV and hi-fi manufacturers at the event appeared optimistic about the impact of 3D audio formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X on home theatre, it seems mainstream consumers have little awareness about them or what they offer.

On the plus side, Simon added that bigscreen viewing is booming. 'We're seeing a wonderfully fluid market emerging at the moment,' he told HCC. 'Large UHD televisions are selling particularly well.' 

To better illustrate the changing landscape, Google's Richard Hartigan compared today's most searched CE terms with those from a decade ago. Ten years back, typical searches comprised 'Sony LCD TV', 'Toshiba LCD', 'widescreen TV', 'Toshiba DVD' and 'Panasonic LCD,' with a smattering of Philips references. Today a comparative cloud looks far more congested: '4K' and 'HD TV' rank side-by-side, with 'Samsung LED TV' the main brand TV search term. Retail chains battle for prominence with the remaining CE marques for traffic.

2015 was a gruelling year for retailers it seems, with the market down in both units and value. According to figures, AVR sales dropped 11 per cent in volume and nine per cent in value. Thankfully there’s enough life left in the high-end (£1,000+) to keep brands interested, but this erosion shows why the category isn't attracting the love that it once did. 

While the overall volume of AV/hi-fi separates has plummeted, value remains high, and it's booming in some places. Territories enjoying higher-than-average growth include Sweden, Germany and Ireland.

And in news that will delight compulsive collectors, GfK revealed that physical media is staging something of a comeback: 'CD is still getting a good airing. CD sales were only down four per cent in 2015, while vinyl was up 64 per cent,' we were told.

Unsurprisingly, vinyl was big news at the Clarity gig, but there’s some devil in the detail. Figures reveal around 2m turntables sold in the UK last year, but 58 per cent were low-cost all-in-one players shifted through high-street fashion outlets. Still, this didn't prevent Clarity from announcing a consumer show for platter fans. Called Stylus, it will run April 23/24 at the Park Inn Hotel, Heathrow, and will cover all aspects of the vinyl boom, from record collecting to gear.

'This isn't a traditional hi-fi show,' promised Clarity's Phil Hansen. 'We want to attract a wider crowd.'