Rough Week For Plasma - Twice

Rough Week For Plasma

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If reports out of Japan this week prove correct, the industry may be losing a pair of powerful players in the plasma TV category.

Over the weekend, Japanese news services cited sources saying that Pioneer may be planning to exit the TV business, and will handle its video products, including Blu-ray players, through a joint venture with investor Sharp.

Then in conference calls with the press, Vizio officially said it was giving up its foray into plasma (at least for now) to focus on more advanced LCD TV products, including models with 120Hz and 240Hz processing.

Laynie Newsome, Vizio’s co-founder and sales and marketing communications VP, told us, “We are not planning on shipping any plasma products going forward. We have decided that with the recent cost decreases in the LCD TV market that LCD may be a better choice for consumers from the Spring time forward, based on the cost of product and the feature set.”

Newsome continued, “Consumers have shown in the retail environment that they prefer LCD because it is transmissive and doesn’t reflect any light.”

Newsome explained that the company’s decision last year to add plasma SKUs in the 32-inch and 42-inch screen sizes was based on the company’s ability to deliver “incredible value and performance” but now that LCD pricing has declined so much, “it is a better choice for consumers this spring.”

Newsome didn’t rule out the possibility that Vizio could return to the category if given the right price and performance advantages.

On the U.S. side, Pioneer spokespeople issued only a formal “no comment” in reply to the TV exit story.

Paul Gagnon, DisplaySearch North American TV research director, said that if both companies leave the plasma category, it will have a negative impact on market projections, but “neither [company] does a substantial amount of volume, so the impact won’t be large.”

Panasonic remains the kingpin of the plasma display category, but in the past company executives have said they would carry the business even if it were the last player standing.

Let’s hope so. Both plasma and LCD categories have significant strengths in the right applications, and plasma manufacturers have made tremendous strides in recent years evolving the technology to new levels of price and performance.

The industry could ill afford any further reduction in its display assortment at a time when rear-projection and CRT products are fading from sight.

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