i3 | November 17, 2021

The State of Home Theater

Steve Koenig
Home theater

The State of Home Theater

Many consumers now enjoy movies, TV programs and video games in a cinematic and increasingly immersive environment (popcorn optional).

Innovations like soundbars and smart TVs have simplified the home theater equation, but not all advances have stuck like the now defunct 3DTV. Today the home theater market offers a wide panorama of technologies to match the size of almost any room and budget. Streaming media has further democratized these home entertainment systems. Therefore, understanding the current state of this market is crucial to manufacturers and content producers alike.

Recent CTA consumer research sets a new benchmark for home theater, illustrating a variety of dynamics including ownership, usage behaviors and purchase intentions. CTA’s Home Theater Landscape study released on November 5, defines home theater as a 50-inch TV or projector coupled with an audio speaker set-up capable of rendering surround sound. Based on this definition, the study found 22% of U.S. adults (over 26 million) purport owning a home theater.

Home theaters today are primarily TV-based — just 14% of home theaters feature a projector. Average screen sizes for home theater systems are impressive with TVs at 61-inches and projector screens at 103-inches. 

Average screen sizes for home theater systems are impressive with TVs at 61-inches and projector screens at 103-inches.

Key to the Experience

The audio data tells us much more about these systems. Based on reported ownership of audio products, the analysis suggests projector-based home theaters are more likely to employ an audio/video receiver (AVR) connected to speakers for discrete audio channels, such as a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker configuration. Meanwhile, TV-based home theaters are more likely to feature various audio solutions including soundbar and subwoofer combinations. In terms of location, 62% of U.S. home theaters are in the living room or den of the home. And somewhat obviously, movies top (94%) the list of content watched on home theater systems.

Video source components add another dimension to home theater systems and the research reveals a broad mix of devices in play. Today’s home theaters boast an average of 2.7 connected devices with dedicated ‘shiny disc’ players — either DVD, Blu-Ray or 4K Blu-Ray — leading the pack. Roughly 40% of home theaters have video game consoles, streaming media devices, or cable/satellite boxes connected to them. And nearly one-third (32%) of home theaters have a laptop or desktop computer connected to them. These findings reaffirm the longevity of physical media formats (e.g., DVDs) but also confirm the importance of streaming media to home theater owners.

Most (75%) home theater owners say audio and video are equally important to their home entertainment experience. However, video products account for the larger portion (57%) of spending. Elements such as picture quality, screen size and audio quality top the list of features important to home theater owners and prospective buyers alike. However, wireless connectivity is now an equally important consideration to support streaming content.

Stream It

But how are consumers accessing streaming content to enjoy in their home theaters? The research shows consumers tap multiple devices for this purpose. When asked what devices they use to stream content ‘most of the time’, 59% use apps on a smart TV, 56% use a connected device, and 26% stream from some other device (e.g., smartphone).

Given the omnipresence of media and the impact of stay-at-home culture during the pandemic, it is not surprising the research found a large market of prospective owners looking to buy into home theater. Some 13 million consumers plan to complete their home theater set-ups in the next year, involving a mix of video and audio upgrades. If content is king, small wonder so many consumers wish to build their own Camelot right at home.

i3 magazine November/December 2021 cover

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