OLED TV panels’ breakout year delayed, but it’s coming

November 5, 2012 - In early January of this year, both Samsung and LG showed off 55-in. versions of their organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TVs at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Commercial volumes were expected on shelves by the time of the 2012 Summer Olympics (which didn’t happen); they were again showed this fall at IFA in Germany.

Unfortunately, still struggling with low manufacturing yields and high prices, the two giants recently admitted the delivery of those technologies will be pushed out into 2013. NPD DisplaySearch now projects only 500 OLED TVs will ship in 2012.

Still, one must crawl before taking first steps and eventually running with the pack. Actually getting products out into the market is an important move, even as LCD TVs continue to get bigger and with higher resolutions. "4K × 2K LCD TVs have has become a focus and are currently available, and OLED TV needs to demonstrate its technical superiority," points out David Hsieh, VP at NPD DisplaySearch. "If we do see OLED TVs hit the market within 2012, the shipments will be used primarily for retail demonstrations in developed regions like North America and Europe."

OLED TV technology still has to overcome a number of obstacles, explained by the research firm:

  • Technical challenges: Making and scaling up large OLED panels (e.g. 55-in.) is a different animal vs. the smaller ones (e.g. 5-in.) now at high-volume output for smart phones.
  • Manufacturing limitations: Only two Gen-8 OLED lines are in place for TV panels, still in pilot mode and with low manufacturing yields which is keeping costs high and limiting the ability to address demand.
  • High price: Initial retail price for a 55-in. OLED will be around $10,000 — that’s not going to cut it when 60-in. LCD TVs sell for under $1000.
  • New high-definition competition: While the two Korean suppliers focus on OLEDs TVs, competitors in Taiwan, China, and Japan are developing LCD TVs with ultrahigh definition (4K × 2K).
  • Market timing: How much advantage do Samsung and LG have from their early adoption of OLED; will competitors quickly close that gap?

NPD DisplaySearch is still bullish on OLED’s longer-term competitiveness, though, expecting that suppliers in Taiwan, China, and Japan will indeed pick up the mantle of AMOLED TV panel production. The firm projects over one million unit shipments in 2014, and a 3% market penetration by 2016.

Forecasted shipments (in millions) and penetration rates for OLED TVs. (Source: NPD DisplaySearch)

 

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