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DisplaySearch: Q4 TV Shipments Down 7%

Austin, Texas— Shipments of North American TV sets dropped 7 percent to 10.7 million units in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to preliminary results tabulated by DisplaySearch, a company of The NPD Group.

Not surprisingly, the market research firm in its preliminary Q4 2008 North American TV study attributed the decline to the rapidly deteriorating economy and spending concerns of consumers during the critical holiday selling period.

DisplaySearch said retailers were careful to avoid an inventory hangover and reduced orders to manufacturers in anticipation of weaker demand.

As the research group expected, shipments of LCD TVs fell on a year-to-year basis for the first time ever, from 8.9 million units in Q4 2007 to 8.7 million in Q4 2008, DisplaySearch said.

However, shipments of plasma TVs (PDP), which are typically cheaper than similarly sized LCD TVs, increased by 28 percent quarter over quarter and 10 percent year over year, DisplaySearch said.

“The PDP shipment total of 1.3 million units was a new record for quarterly shipments,” DisplaySearch said.

North America LCD TV shipments increased by 9 percent quarter over quarter due to seasonal effects, but excessive inventory heading into Q4 2008 and weaker demand during the 2008 holiday season led to the first-ever year-over-year quarterly shipment decline, falling 2 percent to 8.7 million units. This was stronger than the projected 8 percent decline, however, as aggressive discounting at retail kept sell-through unit volume higher; the impact on revenues will be more severe.

Some of the best deals during the holidays were for 40-inch to 52-inch screen sizes, so the 40-inch-plus share of LCD TV shipments rose from 30 percent in Q3 2008 to 37 percent in Q4 2008, as consumers snapped up bargains.

Plasma TV shipments were expected to be less impacted by increased consumer price sensitivity, given their less-expensive price points compared to similar LCD TV sizes and resolutions. However, the holiday season saw stronger-than-expected demand for these sets, as prices for 50-inch models fell below $1,000 for the first time. Plasma TV shipments increased 28 percent quarter over quarter and 10 percent year over year to a record of more than 1.3 million units, and plasma was the only TV technology to see year over year shipment growth in Q4 2008.

Samsung had the No. 1 overall flat-panel TV unit share for the sixth straight quarter, up to more than 20 percent for the first time. DisplaySearch attributed the results to success in both LCD and plasma market segments, ranking No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. However, Samsung had the weakest quarter-over-quarter growth of the top five flat-panel TV brands, but had the second strongest year-over-year growth and significantly outperformed all other flat-panel TV brands in 2008 as a whole, according to the report.

Sony was No. 2 in combined flat-panel TV share at 14.2 percent, a 3-point share gain from Q3 2008, on 29 percent quarter-over-quarter unit-shipment growth, DisplaySearch said. Sony sells only LCD TVs in the consumer market, like Sharp, so their combined flat-panel TV share is actually only LCD TVs. Sony’s Q4 2008 LCD TV unit share was 16.3 percent, the highest at any time during the past three years, DisplaySearch said.

Vizio returned to No. 3 in overall flat-panel TV unit share, increasing from 9 percent to 12.3 percent, the biggest unit share gain among the top five brands. Strong shipment growth in LCD TVs offset a decline in plasma TV shipments, particularly above 40-inch models, the company said. Vizio had the strongest quarter-over-quarter shipment growth in LCD TV among the top brands and ranked No. 3 in both LCD TV and plasma TV technologies.

Table 1: DisplaySearch Preliminary Q3‘08-Q4‘08 NA Flat Panel TV Unit Share and Growth

Table 2: DisplaySearch Preliminary Q3‘08-Q4‘08 NA LCD TV Unit Share and Growth

Table 3: DisplaySearch Preliminary Q3‘08-Q4‘08 NA Plasma TV Unit Share and Growth