When Television Becomes Art

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There’s a 55 percent drop in watching TV shows on TVs, with tablets and smartphones on the rise. Jamie Carter asks if television manufactures can buck the trend by creating TVs that look like works of art?

Who watches TV anymore? There might be a 50-inch hi-def LED TV in your living room, but it’s likely that most of the people who are supposed to be watching it instead have their heads buried in their smartphones. Recent research shows televisions are losing significant ground to mobile devices.

“The dominance of the TV set as the undisputed go-to entertainment device is ending,” said Gavin Mann, global managing director for Accenture’s broadcast business. “While a great number of people still watch plenty of TV shows on TV sets, our research uncovers a rapid acceleration in their preference for viewing on other digital devices — especially laptops, desktops and smartphones.”

So, TV’s dead, right? Absolutely not. GfK’s figures from 2016 show that 2.6 million smart TVs were sold in China, a rise of 242 percent since 2014. And while in India and Singapore tablets and smartphones are used to watch about 25 percent of all video, the TV still dominates. We all still want a TV in the house (can you imagine your home without a TV?), but we’re using it less. So, it follows that our tolerance of how dominating a TV looks in a room is diminishing fast.

Cue not smart TV, but ‘art’ TV. Today, all the major manufacturers are trying to get super-slim, super-expensive TVs into our homes by making them look like works of art. “People are starting to look about how a TV can be different and unique in its design, not just on its technology,” says Gerard Tan, ‎commercial director at GfK Asia in Singapore. “TVs are becoming decorations on the wall, and you can trust Asian consumers to try out this trend first.”

The biggest promoter of TV as art is Samsung, whose new collection of LED TVs (at top) is simply called The Frame. These 55-inch and 65-inch TVs, developed in collaboration with Swiss designer Yves Behar, blend into a home by looking like a picture frame hanging on a wall (the wall-mount is built-in). That ‘Art mode’ even kicks-in using motion sensors; walk into a room and the TV switches on and shows a piece of art, or your own photographs.

 
 
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Amusingly, The Frame TVs include ‘near-invisible’ cabling, which turns out to be a slim cable to a connector box, which is nothing new. And nowhere does Samsung mention in its marketing that The Frame TVs need a power cable. When was the last time you saw a work of art with two cables hanging underneath? There’s another problem; pictures tend to be hung at eye level when standing-up, while a TV needs to be at eye-level when you’re sat down. For those clever people who have spotted these problems with The Frame TVs, Samsung sells the optional easel-style Studio Stand.

However, there’s a surge in popularity of a rival TV technology that Samsung does not manufacture; OLED. Boasting the best contrast, deeper, more realistic black levels, and almost no motion blur, OLED TVs emit their own light when an electric current is passed through; this is a genuine leap forward in TV picture quality technology. All the major brands except Samsung are now selling OLED TVs, including Sony, whose BRAVIA OLED A1 TV (above) has an ‘acoustic surface’ instead of speakers. However, leading the charge is LG with its 3mm-slim Signature Series W7 OLED TVs, which come in 65-inch and 77-inch sizes.

Where to put it? There are a few clues; the W stands for ‘wallpaper’, and its main feature is ‘picture-on-wall’. Just remember to put it where you can keep your eyes on it.

 
 

TechnologyFred Kirby