Milan – Samsung, one of the world’s largest electronic manufacturers and thus a proper barometer for the sector, recently reported downward TV sales – 2018 was one of the division’s worst years on record.
So, if the industry is on a slippery slide, what’s with all the OLED TV launches in Milan this year? Simply put: by repackaging a primary household item as a 20,000-euro design object, manufacturers such as Bang & Olufsen, Panasonic and LG are trying to skip the category altogether.
This trend started with cord cutters, a growing cluster of millennials who eschewed cable in favour of streaming video content on laptop and mobile screens. That meant that the mass exodus of would-be TV viewers impacted not only service providers, but also TV set manufacturers.
But it’s also, as usual, Instagram’s fault. As the homebody generation turned the home into an aspirational space – staying home instead of going out does not carry the social stigma it did with Gen X-ers – the desire to live inside a perennially photogenic residential scene became incompatible with the intrusive black flat screen. In the era of Airspace and the cultural cachet that came with not owning a television, its decline was not a surprise.
So, the Beovision screen that starts up by opening its wings like a butterfly, or the one that turns into an invisible Vitra vitrine or Foster + Partners’ rolling marvel? Those are not television sets – they’re sculptures. And that’s not a negative thing at all: by reframing and reforming an iconic category, they might actually be saving it altogether.