The enjoyment of home theater entertainment has shifted away from traditional pay-TV platforms and physical disc media toward premium digital streaming alternatives, a new study on home theater released by the Consumer Technology Association Tuesday found.

According to the CTA’s study on U.S. consumer sentiment around home theaters in 2021, 26 million U.S. households (22%) already have a home theater system and another 13 million plan to have one in the next 12 months, growing the market by 50% in the year ahead.

The CTA defines a home theater system has at least one of the following video and audio products connected (wired or wirelessly) in the same room.

• Video: A television (TV) 50-inches or bigger; or an LCD, DLP or laser projector displayed 50-inch or bigger.
• Audio: An audio/video receiver (AVR or A/V receiver) with a multichannel surround-sound speaker (wired or wireless) setup; or a soundbar with a separate subwoofer; or an audio system with a separate subwoofer.

As for what U.S. consumers are watching on their systems these days, the study showed “the importance of streaming services to U.S. home theater owners.”

According to polling data, paid streaming is the top source of content watched on home theater systems among owners (above cable, satellite or fiber live pay-TV platforms) and prospective owners indicate they plan to widen the gap. Digital content, including à la carte music and movie downloads, makes up nearly half (46%) of home theater owners’ annual spend on home entertainment.

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“With a near infinite library of content to choose from and support for the latest 4K UHD and HDR formats, paid video streaming services such as Disney+, YouTube TV and Apple TV+ are the most used content sources for home theater, surpassing cable/satellite,” the report states.

Despite this, home theaters continue to leverage a variety of sources.

On average, owners have nearly three additional devices connected to their home theaters, with DVD/Blu-ray players, video game consoles and digital streaming devices taking the top spots. These have leapfrogged the staple cable/satellite set-top boxes that dominated system to access traditional network TV content, the CTA found.

While cable/satellite and DVD/Blu-ray still play a significant role as content sources — especially for TV shows and sports content — they plot a downward trend in plans among prospective HT owners. Video games, however, are used in half of home theaters and hold steady among prospective owners.

Among further findings in the report, the CTA said:

• Next-generation features are the focus of future home theater purchases; 12-month demand for 8K UHD, OLED and gaming support is expected to significantly increase ownership above current rates.
• Video games are played on 50% of home theaters; engagement holds steady among future home theater owners.
• 45% of HT owners have used theirs for remote-based activities (e.g., working from home, virtual learning, hosting/attending virtual meetings); 93% did so for the first-time since the COVID-19 pandemic.

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By Greg Tarr

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