Shrinking flat-panel TV market wrings out marginal growth in first quarter

Bringing an end to a full year of declines, global flat-panel television shipments rose slightly in the first quarter, paving the way for marginal growth in 2013, according to the “Monthly Worldwide FPD TV Shipment Data Report” from the IHS TV Systems Intelligence Service at information and analytics provider IHS.

Global shipments of flat-panel televisions comprising liquid-crystal display (LCD) and plasma sets amounted to 47.6 million units in the first quarter, up 0.4 percent from 47.5 million during the same period one year earlier. This represented the first year-over-year quarterly growth for the market since the fourth quarter of 2011, as shown in the figure below.

global flat-panel tv growth

“While a less than 1 percent increase in the first quarter may not seem like much, it’s a major achievement for a TV market that was stuck in the doldrums throughout 2012,” said Jusy Hong, senior analyst, television research, for IHS. “Just one year earlier, in the first quarter of 2012, shipments fell by 5 percent—and then continued to decline by 3.5 percent, 0.3 percent and 2.4 during the next three quarters. Even with weak results in February and March, the rise for the entire first quarter sets the stage for the global flat-panel TV market to return to growth this year, with a slight 0.4 percent increase expected in 2013.”

An up-and-down quarter

Global flat-panel television shipments started the year with a bang, rising by 11 percent in January compared to the same month in 2012 because of strong seasonal Lunar New Year demand. However, shipments declined 9 percent in February and 3 percent in March as demand plunged following the Lunar New Year buying season, according to the latest IHS figures. The strong performance in January was just high enough to offset the declines during the next two months.

The market is now showing signs of rebounding, with estimated year-over-year growth of 10 percent in April and another 9 percent increase forecast in May.

LCDs grow—and grow their sales

LCD TVs are leading the growth for the overall market, with a 2 percent expansion in shipments in the first quarter compared to a year earlier. Shipments of LCD TVs amounted to 45.2 million units, up from 44.3 million.

Sales of LCD TVs are being boosted by 50-inch and larger sets, whose share doubled to 10 percent in February this year, up from 5 percent during the same time last year.

“LCD TV brands are aggressively increasing their super-larger-sized TV lineup and shipments in order to improve profitability,” Hong said. “Panel makers are following suit. This is resulting in declining prices for the larger sets, attracting more consumer interest.”

Plasma plunges

In contrast to the strong performance of LCDs, plasma sales are dropping like a rock, constraining the growth of the overall flat-panel market. Global plasma TV set shipments declined to 2.5 million in the first quarter, down a gut-wrenching 22 percent from 3.2 million one year earlier.

“Plasma shipments are declining because they are losing ground to LCDs in the market for super-sized TVs, especially in the 50-inch segment,” Hong said.

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