Global flat-panel TV shipments enjoy sound growth in Q1

Worldwide shipments of flat-panel televisions rose convincingly in the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same period last year, a stronger-than-expected showing that puts the industry on firm footing for the year, according to a new report from IHS Technology.

The market for liquid-crystal display televisions (LCD TV) was particularly robust, climbing 4 percent from January to March this year to 47.36 million units. And despite a 16 percent decline to 2.00 million units for global plasma display panel televisions (PDP TV)—which are on their way out of the industry permanently—total flat-panel TV shipments in the first quarter remained up by 3.3 percent to 49.36 million units, as shown in the figure below.

Figure 1

Figure 1

“LCD TV shipments had expanded in the first quarter of 2013 because of a decline in the market during the same time in 2012, so in that sense growth last year was almost to be expected,” said Jusy Hong, principal analyst for consumer devices at IHS. “But for the first quarter this year, shipments increased from an already respectable level during the same time in 2013, so what the industry has just experienced represents well-founded growth indeed at this time.”

With the surprisingly robust expansion for the first quarter launching the industry on a solid start for the year, LCD TV shipments for 2014 could grow by 4 percent or even higher, Hong noted.

These findings can be found in the report, “TV Systems Databases: Monthly TV Shipments – May 2014,” from the Consumer Electronics research service at IHS.

South Koreans command the field

Among flat-panel TV manufacturers, the South Koreans performed the best during the first quarter, with the Japanese also holding up well. However, the Chinese struggled.

With aggregate shipments of 17 million units between them, Samsung and LG continued to be the top brands and makers of flat-panel TVs. Overall, the South Koreans maintained year-on-year shipment growth higher than 10 percent for each of the three months in the first quarter—a distinction unmatched by any other group, including American- and European-based manufacturers.

The Koreans’ growth can be attributed to an increased push in LCD TV shipments while they pull out of the plasma business. Samsung, for instance, is scaling back sharply on PDP TV shipments, and it is preparing to relaunch high-definition LCD TV models in the new size range of 40 and 48 inches to replace 43- and 51-inch plasmas. Almost 100 percent of 40-inch-and-larger LCD TVs are full high-definition models.

For their part, the Japanese scored during the period by boosting shipments before the country’s consumption tax was increased from 5 to 8 percent. If the Japanese market now cools because of the tax, Japanese TV makers will likely have to reduce flat-panel shipments to the local market in the second quarter, IHS believes.

In contrast to the strong performance of the Koreans and the Japanese, Chinese TV brands and makers saw shipments shrink every month in the first quarter compared to the same period in 2013.

Ever since the government ended its subsidy for energy-efficient products in May 2013, the Chinese TV market has cooled and has been unable to regain its previous level of vigor and activity. To revive the space, Chinese makers are looking to release a number of new models in the coming months, including ultra-high-definition (UHD), organic light-emitting-diode (OLED) and curved TV sets.

In somewhat of a surprise, the global TV industry is also seeing renewed demand for TV sets coming from the developed markets, which are nearly saturated with flat-panel TVs. The rejuvenated interest could likely be coming from the release of new sets, including UHD models that boast four times the resolution of high-definition 1080p sets.

The TV market as a whole is also recovering in Western Europe and North America as the economy improves in those regions, further boosting flat-panel TV shipments for the developed world.

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