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DisplaySearch: Vizio, Samsung Q1 Flat-Panel TV Winners

Austin, Texas — TV market research firm DisplaySearch issued a first-quarter 2009 TV supply and shipment report Monday showing North American LCD TV shipments rose 23 percent over the year-ago period to 7.2 million units.

The NPD Group company attributed some of the gain, which followed the LCD TV category’s first-ever year-to-year quarterly decline in the fourth quarter of 2008, to aggressive closeout pricing and Circuit City’s liquidation

DisplaySearch’s Quarterly Global TV Shipment and Forecast Report, revealed that discount channels “seemed to prosper more than most as price sensitive consumers sought the lowest prices and convenient shopping,” in the first quarter of 2009.

This helps explain how value-brand Vizio returned to the No. 1 ranking in LCD TVs for the first time since the second quarter of 2007, overtaking Samsung and Sony in the process and improving their unit share, from 13 percent, to 19 percent.

“Vizio is a relatively young TV brand in the U.S. marketplace, but their strong alignment with mass merchant and warehouse club retailers seemed to put them in the right place at the right time with growing channels,” stated Paul Gagnon, DisplaySearch North America TV Research director. “As LCD TV panel makers quickly return to nearly full capacity and simultaneously push panel-price increases, the industry will have to carefully monitor the impact that slower retail price declines may have on consumer demand during the second half of the year to avoid a potential repeat oversupply situation.”

Funai, another major discount channel resource that controls the Sylvania Emerson, Magnavox and Philips brands in the United States, also saw its market share improve from 7 percent in Q4 2008 to 8.5 percent in Q1 2009, with shipments nearly unchanged from the previous quarter, DisplaySearch said.

“Premium brands like Samsung and Sony lost share as consumers became more price sensitive, looking both for better value and smaller screen sizes than last quarter,” DisplaySearch said. “The premium brands are stronger in the 40-inch and larger screen sizes, as well as offering advanced features such as 1080p resolution, 120Hz or higher frame rates, and higher-quality image processing — all of which add to the retail price.”

DisplaySearch said that while North America LCD TV shipments increased by 23 in the first quarter for the year ago period, the numbers were down 18 percent from the fourth quarter of 2008, due to typical season effect, “though the decline was milder than most years due to a weak 2008 holiday season.”

“Despite continued weakness in the U.S. economy from a continuing recession, consumers were clearly still looking for post-holiday deals, and most pricing was relatively close to holiday levels as retailers continued trying to entice consumers,” according to the report.

The 32-inch LCD TV segment was a particularly bright area, rising 41 percent year to year and only declining 5 percent quarter to quarter, with many prices at or below $500. Forty-inch plus LCD TV shipments fell a greater-than-average 25 percent quarter to quarter, showing no unit share growth from Q1 2008, even though Q1 is usually a strong quarter for larger sizes due to the Super Bowl, the research firm said.

Plasma TV shipments fell 50 percent quarter to quarter and 5 percent from the year-ago period to 672,000 units.

“Plasma TVs were strong sellers during the holiday season, with good price-per-inch value, but several TV brands were exiting the category in Q1. Fifty-inch sets fared a little better than 42-inch models, declining by only 2 percent year to year rather than 6 percent year to year for 42-inch,” the report said.

Vizio seized the No. 1 position in LCD TV shipments from Samsung by achieving 18.9 percent market in the period, a new high for the brand. The company was also the only LCD TV brand among the top five to see shipments grow from Q4 2008 to Q1 2009, rising 21 percent, and had the strongest year-to-year growth, up 79 percent from Q1 2008 to Q1 2009, according to the study.

The strong LCD TV shipment growth offset a 35 percent year-to-year decline in plasma TV shipments, as the brand announced a shift to an LCD-only TV lineup beginning in Q2’09.

Vizio’s combined LCD TV and plasma TV shipments ranked No. 2 behind Samsung by less than 27,000 units, DisplaySearch said.

Samsung fell to No. 2 in LCD TV after four straight quarters of leadership, as their share fell from a record 19.2 percent in Q4 2008 to 17.4 percent.

However, Samsung still exhibited strong annual growth in Q1, as shipments rose 61 percent year to year. Samsung was the No. 2 plasma TV brand behind Panasonic with a 27 percent share of that segment.

This, combined with their No. 2 LCD TV share, gave them the top overall flat-panel TV brand share at 18.2 percent. Samsung continued to focus on larger screen sizes and remained the 40-inch-plus and 1080p LCD TV market leader, followed by Sony and Vizio.

Sony was the third-ranked LCD TV brand in North America, with 36 percent year-to-year shipment growth, and was also the third-ranked overall flat-panel brand, despite not participating in the plasma TV market segment.

Panasonic remained the plasma TV market leader by a considerable margin over Samsung, despite losing about 8 points of unit share, DisplaySearch reported.

Table 1: Preliminary Q4 ’08 – Q1 ’09 N.A. Total Flat-Panel TV Unit Share and Growth

Source: DisplaySearch Quarterly Global TV Shipment and Forecast Report

Table 2: Preliminary Q4 ’08 – Q1 ’09 N.A. LCD TV Unit Share and Growth

Source: DisplaySearch Quarterly Global TV Shipment and Forecast Report

Table 3: Preliminary Q4 ’08 – Q1 ’09 N.A. Plasma TV Unit Share and Growth

Source: DisplaySearch Quarterly Global TV Shipment and Forecast Report