Technology has changed the face of television viewing today. No longer are we forced to purchase large bulky televisions that in many cases are more than two feet in depth, instead the consumer has the choice to purchase a sleek flat panel television that often is only 4 inches in depth and, with the correct mounting solution, can appear to be floating on a wall with no signs of wires in sight.

The idea of mounting a television to a wall or hanging it from a ceiling is not a new idea. In fact, TVs were being installed on wall mounts in the early 1980s. These TVs were quite heavy, partially due the glass picture tube and CRT chassis. The environment in which most TVs are mounted today has changed dramatically. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, most TVs were mounted in commercial locations such as bars, restaurants, health clubs, or malls. Occasionally a TV would be mounted at a residence, primarily in a bedroom. With the introduction of the flat panel display, all that has changed.

Flat panel displays were introduced to the marketplace several years ago, initially as plasma televisions. Big box electronics retailers were among the first to offer these plasma TVs to the consumer. The idea of “hanging” a TV on the wall, much like one would hang a fine oil painting, was very appealing. This concept meant that the consumer could regain more than two feet of floor space in a room that previously had surrendered that space to a conventional big screen TV. The first offerings in the plasma screen market were not only expensive, but fell short in regards to performance. Even though the new technology was far from perfect, consumers that could afford to buy a plasma screen often did. These early plasma sales created the need for manufacturers of television mounts to design and build suitable mounts to secure the plasmas to the wall. As the demand for these flat panel plasma screens increased, the cost to manufacture the screens decreased and additional TV manufacturers entered the market. New brand names appear to have captured a significant share of the flat panel business. Brand names such as LG, Samsung and Sharp have become common place in the market. Prices of the panels have dropped to a level that a large percentage of consumers can now afford to purchase a flat panel TV. Just as more manufacturers have entered the flat panel market, the same holds true for manufacturers of the flat panel mount. The Consumer Electronics Association estimates that up to 40 percent of the flat panels sold today are mounted on the wall. The latest flat panel technology introduced is the LCD display, a technology that promises better performance and increased flat panel life. The introduction of new technologies, coupled with aggressive price drops in the plasma market have driven flat panel sales and the sales of flat panel mounting solutions to an all time high.

The initial offerings in flat panel wall mounts were both brand and model specific. This meant that every time a manufacturer entered the market with a new model, the mount manufacturers had to respond with a specific adaptor plate to facilitate a wall mounted solution for that make/model. This created a market in which the changing hole patterns on the flat panels perpetuated the introduction of new adaptor plates, which in turn confused the product specialists that were selling the hardware. This confusion also permeated the installers’ world, as they were not sure of the correct wall mounting solution in many instances and the customer was, as a result, significantly inconvenienced. Something had to be done to make the sale and installation of these attractive flat panels more of a seamless experience for both the consumer and the retailer. The solution was just around the corner.

Mount manufacturers answered the call with the introduction of a more comprehensive wall mount that was deemed to be “universal” in nature. This simplified the choice in deciding what mount to use when mounting a particular flat panel. If the customer wants the lowest profile installation, the customer would opt for a “fixed” version of the universal mount, a solution that allowed the panel to be installed in a static position parallel with the wall. The other choice is a “tilt” version of the universal mount, which allows the consumer to adjust the angle of the panel while it is mounted on the wall. This feature may be important due to the height at which the panel was mounted. Many of these flat panels are being installed above fireplaces and because of its height; the panel would need to be tilted slightly downward to achieve the most comfortable viewing angle.

With the inception of the new universal mounts, the installation process has been greatly simplified. Some of the first model specific mounts would require three installers and three to four hours to safely install the panel. The amount of time required to install a flat panel with the universal mounts has been greatly reduced. Now, the average time required for a basic flat panel installation is about one hour, using one or two installers, as needed, to safely install the panel. This is a huge benefit for the installers. An installation team can now schedule multiple flat panel installations in a specific time period, thus allowing for an install team to complete more jobs in a given day and adding profit dollars to the bottom line. In addition the do it yourself market is served equally well, as many home owners choose to mount their flat panel themselves. These new universal mounts come complete with comprehensive instructions as well as all of the necessary hardware right in the box.

Since the mounting of flat panels has become such big business, the number of mount manufacturers has grown significantly. Many companies that had built purely industrial mounts in the past, but as flat panel sales became an important category in the consumer market, these manufacturers saw fit to enter the retail market. OmniMount, once a manufacturer solely of pro audio mounts, has now become a leading manufacturer of flat panel mounts for the consumer worldwide. The latest mounts have a more finished look to them, clearly meant to compliment the look of the sleek flat panels being installed today. In fact, OmniMount’s new U3 mount has won several awards based on design and ergonomics.

Flat panel sales topped the $3 billion mark last year (2005), and sales are forecast reach $3.5 billion dollars this year (2006). Flat panel are being installed in kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, and in some instances, garages. Some of these are installed in such a way that the panel can be viewed from multiple locations. To facilitate this, new cantilever or articulating mounts have been introduced. These mounts allow the panel to be pulled away from the wall and turned up to 45 degrees, what this means to the consumer is that one panel can be used in the main viewing location and by pulling the panel away from the wall it can be used to watch TV at a secondary location, such as the kitchen. This solution provides a very cost effective method for the consumer to maximize the viewing of their new purchase. Along with the features that allow the panels to be pulled away from the wall, manufacturers have incorporated sophisticated cable management into these mounts. Virtually all cantilever-type mount manufacturers have introduced cable management into their products. The most impressive of which is the new Wishbone Cantilever series from OmniMount. This mount has been engineered to provide excellent performance and unparralled aesthetic appeal. The bottom line is if your company has not capitalized on the tremendous growth occurring in the flat panel market, both on the sales and installation sides, take a hard look at the category, get involved, and reap the benefits of the current trend.

About Hal Truax, OmniMount General Manager, Custom Installation
Hal Truax is a 25-year industry veteran. His resume includes heading up the Custom Installation division with Good Guys, many years’ experience in retail and pro A/V management, and partnering in San Diego-based Ultra Link.