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IHS Sees Positive Signs For 4K Success

Vancouver, British Columbia — Video display market analyst IHS said TV panel makers attending this week’s Society for Information Display (SID) 2013 Display Week are betting on a high rate of growth for UHD LCD TVs during the next four years.

These companies expect to ship nearly 943,000 UHD LCD panels this year, up from less than 33,000 units in 2012, according to the IHS’s Display Materials & Systems Service.

The next two years will see shipments ramp up even more quickly to 7.1 million units in 2015, on their way to reaching 20.8 million units by 2017, IHS said.

The total rises much higher when including a type of lower-priced, lower-specification product called “UHD-ready,” panels, which mainly are targeted at the Chinese market.

Suppliers collectively plan to ship as many as 4 million UHD-ready panels this year alone.

 The market research firm said TV manufacturers are looking to avoid the mistakes made with the launch 3D technologies a few years ago.

“Having learned from past mistakes, TV suppliers are gearing up to make UHD TV a success, determined not to repeat the mistakes they made with 3-D,” said Sweta Dash, IHS display industry research senior director. “However, the level of consumer demand for UHD is still not clear. Lower yields, higher costs, slower TV sales, lack of content and delays in production all will lead to lower shipments than many in the industry expect.”

IHS said the poor adoption rate of 3D was a wakeup call for major TV brands. By the end of 2012, only about 20 percent of all LCD TVs sold had 3D capability, according to IHS.

Dash said 3D suffered from three major obstacles: content, price and technology. Regarding the latter, consumers didn’t want to change their viewing behavior by wearing a pair of glasses.

But unlike 3D, Dash said UHD does not require any change in consumer behavior, while providing greater depth to picture quality, giving a more immersive experience; while upscaling technology will improve even Full HD picture quality, without the need for a lot of available native 4K content solutions at launch.

Still, IHS points out that many TV brands are actively working to provide native UHD content, either through upscaling or through the creation of proprietary UHD content solutions.

Already, Japan has plans to begin UHD broadcasting as soon as 2014, two years earlier than originally planned. Also, 4K cameras and camcorders are now on the market, enabling creation of 4K content. Movies in 4K are likewise starting to show up.

The increased focus on UHD LCD TVs comes in part from delays in commercialization for organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TVs, an advanced technology that has encountered various challenges in manufacturing.

As UHD is now taking over for the meantime, panel suppliers and brands are working aggressively to reduce prices, with lower-cost UHD TV sets expected later this year, mostly in sizes from 50-inch to 100-inch.

Availability of low-end UHD LCD TV panels from suppliers, especially from Taiwan, may also help trigger UHD market growth, particularly in China, Dash said.

Some brands are already planning to introduce a 50-inch UHD TV in China at a $2,000 price point.

Pointing toward the prospects for long-term sustainability, IHS said top panel suppliers including: Samsung, LG Display, AUO and Innolux are  introducing UHD TV panels, with TV brands like Sony, Sharp, Samsung, LG Electronics, Vizio and many Chinese brands planning to launch their own offerings later this year.

The variety of products available, as well as the different price points and sizes for the sets, will help increase adoption rates, IHS believes.

On the technological front, oxide thin-film transistor (TFT) is considered to be a superior technology compared to conventional amorphous TFT LCD for achieving higher-resolution products.

But oxide TFT faces challenges in capacity and yield issues, whereas panel suppliers have been able to offer lower-cost UHD panels produced from conventional amorphous TFT LCD.