Despite some aggressive promotions in other categories, LCD TV will continue to dominate fourth-quarter TV sales this holiday season, but plasma displays being promoted at very aggressive price points will see significant activity in the 42- and 50-inch screen sizes, vendors and analysts told TWICE.
Riddhi Patel, iSuppli TV systems principal analyst, attributed this to “brand commitments, existing inventories at both retail and panel levels, declining prices (again at both retail and panel levels) and promotions by premium brands. iSuppli believes that this holiday season the premium brands are going to be the price movers.
“Plasma will have its play in the 50-inch and larger sizes,” Patel continued. “There will be some deals on the 42-inch as well but that may not be as aggressively promoted as the 50-inch and larger sizes.”
Tamaryn Pratt, Quixel Research principal, agreed that LCD TV will reign supreme, and that plasma pricing will be footballed around, particularly at 720p resolutions.
“Clearly plasma sales are dwarfed by LCD TV sales at similar screen sizes available,” Pratt said. “However, the inexpensive 42-inch 720p models are continuing to sell at a steady pace. It could have been, and was projected by many to be a dead segment by Q4 2008 — unless the price points cratered — which they did.
“We'll see $599 and $699 for the 42-inch 720p models,” Pratt continued. “The 50-inch 720p plasma segment has really taken the place of the microdisplay rear-projection TV sub-60-inch segment but now instead of 'poor man's plasma' it is 'poor man's flat TV.'”
Key screen sizes for volume this season will include 32-inch and 40- to 42-inch LCD TVs of opening price point brands and entry-series models of tier-one brands, Pratt said.
Another segment to watch, Pratt said, will be “42-inch 720 plasma and to a lesser degree the 50-inch 720 plasma segment. These will not outsell LCD TV but offer great value — those sales have been steady throughout the year and we're expecting a bump in Q4 as well.”
Ross Rubin, The NPD Group's industry analysis director, said, “Overall, plasma continues to lose share to LCD although Panasonic and Samsung continue to do well in the plasma category, and we're seeing more experimentation with smaller screen sizes. There's hope that 720p 42-inch plasma displays can reach price points more attractive to the mass-merchant customer.”
For big-screen bargains, most say it will be hard to top microdisplay rear-projection products this year. As some retailers narrow their 2009 assortments to models measuring 65 inches and larger, observers said the field will be full of 60-inch and smaller bargains.
“Digital light processing (DLP) rear projection is an incredible value right now,” observed Frank DeMartin, Mitsubishi marketing VP. “Best Buy is not promoting that category as much as in the past. There is no question they are looking at the category and deciding how much space they need to allocate to DLP.”
“Sixty-five-inch microdisplay RPTV will be well under $2,000 and perhaps at $1,500,” Pratt predicted. “73-inch will be $2,300 to $2,500. These are mainstream models, not the most fully featured.”
“Microdisplay rear projection is left with DLP as the only technology and Mitsubishi and Samsung as the only two large players. The focus of these brands, specifically Mitsubishi, is on 60-inch and larger sizes,” iSuppi's Patel said.
In the top segment of choice, flat-panel LCD TV, some top-tier manufacturers say step-up features are strong performers.
“Many of the picture-quality features continue to resonate with shoppers, including 120Hz technology and 1080p resolution,” said Bob Scaglione, Sharp product and marketing group senior VP. “Size is also a factor, as well as the onset of thin design. Consumers also look for a larger number of inputs, as many have a variety of devices hooked up to their TVs. Sharp's newest Aquos models offer five HDMIs inputs to handle a wide range of high-definition devices.”
Samsung's Tanenbaum also cited design as an important motivator again this season. “We are seeing a great deal of continued activity in step-up segments which include technology such as 1080p, 120Hz, Samsung's Touch Of Color design and our Info-link (RSS) service,” he said.
Hitachi's marketing VP Daniel Lee said ultra-thin styling in LCD TV is starting to catch fire.
“The thin-is-in movement has incredible momentum,” Lee observed. “You just can't be too thin. We are also hearing very positive feedback on our designs. So aesthetics can't be overlooked. Especially among our demographic, which is more of a luxury buyer, we've also noticed more and more interest lately in eco-friendly or green products, though this is a trend that extends to everything from light bulbs to automobiles.”