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Home-Theater Front Projectors Tally 11% Unit Growth In Q1

6/18/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

NEW YORK — So far, 2012 hasn’t seen a lot of new
development in front-projector technology, but that
hasn’t deterred interest in the two-piece approach to
big-screen entertainment.

According to analysts, first-quarter home-theater
projector sales showed slow and steady growth as
consumers gravitated toward high-value and lowerpriced,
multipurpose projectors.

This has led to greater traction for lower-resolution
720p HD models, taking a pinch out of the FullHD
1080p business, and helping to drop average selling
prices and factory dollar value in the process.

Manufacturers that cater solely to the premium, upscale
home-theater projection market, on the other
hand, have maintained sales volumes from last year
by pushing the midrange segments, 3D-capable models,
and new projectors offering alternative LED light
sources to those based on service-intensive UHP
bulbs.

Meanwhile, so-called 4K projectors led by Sony are
just starting to hit the market, leaving the industry curious
to see if this will spark a new direction they will
have to follow.

According to market research firm Quixel Research,
shipments of home-theater-specific front projectors in
the United States were up 11 percent to 34,543 units
from the same period in 2011, but were down 33 percent
from the 54,221 units sold in the fourth quarter
last year.

Tamaryn Pratt, Quixel principal, said some of the
year-to-year unit shipment growth could be traced to
lower-cost 720p HD models and price-reduced stepup
3D front projectors.

Unit shipments of 720p HD front projectors rose 2
percent from the fourth quarter of 2011 and was up
3 percent for the first quarter of 2011. But 720p HD
models only represented 8.49 percent (up from 5.66
percent a year ago) of the U.S. home-theater frontprojector
business.

According to Quixel, projectors with FullHD 1080p
resolution continue to dominate the business, with
91.4 percent share of market, but that was down almost
2 percent from 93.3 percent in the first quarter of
2011, following the renewed interest in 720p products.
Also indicative of the downscale trend, factory dollar
volume for U.S. front projectors dropped 1 percent
to $72.19 million from the first quarter of 2011 and 32
percent from the preceding quarter.

The overall volume decline, as well as volume declines
in the luxury DLP and three-chip DLP sectors,
pushed revenues down 32 percent quarter to quarter
and was flat year to year, Quixel reported.

“The top end of the market is still viable but flat for
the past year,” Pratt explained. “The reality is that consumers
can buy a whole lotta projector below $10,000
as well as below $5,000. It is up to manufacturers to
work with their retailers to offer a story to keep the high
end of the market healthy.”

As a front-projector display technology, liquid crystal
on silicon (LCoS) share gained 6 percentage points
from the fourth quarter of 2011.

First-quarter 2012 shipments of 3D front projectors,
on the other hand, fell 39 percent from 19,298 units
in the seasonally impacted fourth quarter of 2011 to
11,723, but were up 606 percent from the same period
a year ago.

Alberto Fabiano, Sim2 USA executive VP, said his
company enjoyed “wild success following the launch of
its $28,000 M.150 high brightness active 3D LED-based
HD DLP projector system in the early part of the year.

“The LED projector developed quite surprisingly for
us, and we are very happy about it,” Fabiano said.

Pratt at Quixel said that while Sim2 had a nice first
quarter, “the overall LED home-theater segment was
down almost 40 percent from Q1 2011, while traditional
lamp based products grew 11 percent for the
same time period.

She said LED technology still needs to keep up with
changes in the rest of the market while getting brighter
and less expensive.

But 3D, she said, has become more pervasive.

“There is a minimal price delta in certain segments
of 3D. The challenge is the high end where the product
lifecycle is longer and they were unable to quickly
integrate the technology,” she said. “It has challenged
their value proposition in light of the strong values under
$10,000.”

Meanwhile, Sony and JVC started one of the newest
trends in the front-projector market last year with
the introduction of the first home-theater-targeted 4K
projectors.

Sony is now selling through Sony stores and custom
installers its $25,000 VPL-VW1000ES consumer native
4K SXRD video projector.

“Sony has done a good job in positioning their new
4K model, and I suspect they can capitalize on their
body of work if their marketing activities are sustained
over time,” said Pratt. “The CEDIA dealers have long
memories and want manufacturers that have proven
loyalty.”

But rival manufacturers said that without native 4K
content on the immediate horizon and talk already
starting to surface an 8K format in development, market
confusion is going to be an unavoidable obstacle.

“With video streaming, and satellite and cable companies
compressing signals more and more, picture
quality is getting weaker and weaker, so what are you
going to gain by adding 4K to the mix?” one projector
manufacturer told TWICE.

At the premium end of the consumer home-theater
projector market, business continues to trend toward
higher-value midrange models.

Jennifer Davis, Runco marketing VP, said, “We continue
to see strong sales in our LightStyle-series projectors
with its strong price-performance engineering.
Runco has always emphasized video performance, and
that remains the centerpoint of our value proposition.”

For the rest of the year, Runco will be “looking to
maintain our midrange business driven primarily with
the award-winning QuantumColor Q-750 and Light-
Style-series projectors,” said Davis. “In parallel, we will
grow our premium (over $10,000) offerings this year
with the launch of the LightStyle LS-12d 3D projector.”

Value has been key with more mainstream-focused
brands as well. Edward Gurr, Vivitek sales and product
management director, said his company is seeing
“slower but steady growth in the dedicated home-theater
projector market this year.” In addition, the company
has seen growth in multipurpose/crossover models
that can be used in the office and the home.

“Consumers seem to be looking for high-brightness,
multifunctional projection devices that are also native
1080p, but are powerful enough so that typical hometheater
settings, such as ambient lighting, isn’t an issue,”
Gurr said. “It seems like people want to enjoy
their HD content without the limitations that a dedicated
home-theater projector provides.”

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