Santa Clara, Calif. - The growth rate of global LCD TV shipments slowed to a new low of just 1 percent in the first quarter of 2011, compared with the same period a year ago, according to a market study released by
The DisplaySearch Quarterly Global TV Shipment and Forecast Report showed total shipments were down 29 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010, to 55.2 million units, reflecting in part a sharper seasonal decline than is typical.
DisplaySearch recorded "excessive shipment volume" in Q4 2010, which rose 15 percent from the same period in 2009, and did not match sell-through growth and led to inventory carry-over from the holiday season in many regions.
In addition, the firm said, a sharp slowdown in growth for Japan, which had seen explosive growth in 2009 and 2010 due to the government incentive program known as Eco-Points, weighed on global results when compared with prior periods.
Lagging growth in North America and Western Europe, together with slowing growth rates in China, also played a role, according to the report.
"As the global TV market recovered from the depths of the Great Recession, TV brands and retailers eager to capture market share lowered prices and demand rebounded," stated Hisakazu Torii, DisplaySearch TV research VP. "Once the intense competitive pressure to win market share collided with falling prices, it became difficult for many brands to operate profitably, so new features were introduced that slowed price erosion. However, this may have also stifled demand in mature markets that had high flat-panel TV penetration."
LCD TV unit volume grew 32 to 36 percent each year from 2008 to 2010, even during the global recession, buoyed by rapidly falling prices and huge growth in China.
However, Q1 2011 LCD TV shipments only rose 9 percent from Q1 2010 to 44.3 million units, which DisplaySearch said was "the weakest growth ever for LCD TV," and the only quarter with single-digit growth.
Other contributing factors for the slowing growth were said to have been the fact that shipments grew 50 percent in Q1 2010 from a year earlier as many regions increased shipments in anticipation of high demand related to the World Cup soccer tournament.
Plasma TV shipments posted growth for the sixth straight quarter in Q1 2011, after very weak results in 2009, DisplaySearch said.
Total plasma TV units were up 6 percent year to year to 3.65 million units.
However, there are signs that growth is beginning to slow, especially in Japan and Europe, DisplaySearch said.
The growth in plasma shipments was impacted most directly by continued strong sales of HD (720p) resolution models, not from FullHD (1080p), DisplaySearch said.
"This indicates that the value for plasma, and the reason it is doing well to begin with, stems from its low-cost and high value-per-inch," the report states. "Brands like Panasonic who are focused on 1080p plasma have lost share to brands aiming for volume through HD models, like Samsung and LGE."
DisplaySearch said the share of LCD shipments with LED backlighting continued to grow, expanding from 30 percent of LCD TV shipments in Q4'10 to 35 percent in Q1'11.
Total LED LCD TV unit shipments increased to 15 million units in Q1'11, compared with just 3 million units a year earlier. LED popularity is also growing in emerging markets, where premiums are falling quickly.
Nearly every region had at least 20 percent of LCD TV unit shipments coming from LED-backlit models, most of those being edge-lit type.
In addition, LED penetration of LCD TV shipments larger than 40 inches neared 50 percent.
Although 3D is a new category, it now accounted for 12 percent of total TV revenues in the first quarter of the year, DisplaySearch said. In certain regions the share is much higher.
In North America, where penetration is rising rapidly, 3D sets accounted for almost a fifth of total TV revenues and almost a quarter of 40-inch-plus revenues, as new brands quickly enter the 3D category and capture share from established leaders, DisplaySearch said.
Overall 3D share is also growing as the technology expands into lower price points, largely through lower-frame-rate LCD TVs. Where 90 percent of 3D LCD TV units in Q4 2010 were 240Hz or higher frame rates, in Q1 2011, a full 36 percent were either 60Hz or 120Hz, both of which carry much lower costs.
As for global market share by brand, Samsung continued to rank No. 1 in share of both LCD, which it has maintained for a while, and also in plasma, capturing the top spot from Panasonic, which had long been the category kingpin. However, Samsung still trailed Panasonic in total revenue in the category.
DisplaySearch said Samsung was the No. 1 brand on a revenue basis in almost every region it operated, with the exception of China where domestic brands dominate, and Asia Pacific where LGE led.
Samsung's total flat-panel TV revenue share was up slightly, to 22.2 percent, about the same share as a year ago.
In North America, Samsung ranked No. 2 to Vizio in total LCD units, but led in revenues due to a higher share of 40-inch-plus screen sizes.
LGE was the No. 2 brand worldwide at 15 percent, up almost two points from last quarter and slightly up in share from a year ago.
In terms of revenues, LGE was No. 2 in LCD TV and No. 3 in plasma TV, as well as leading CRT TV with more than double the revenue share of any other brand.
Sony rounded out the top three brands in global flat-panel TV revenues during Q1 2011, but saw a sharp decline in share compared with Q4 2010 as the drop in Japan volume and loss of share in North America took a toll, DisplaySearch said.
Sharp and Panasonic rounded out the top five, trading share positions compared with last quarter.
Samsung was also No. 1 in global 3D TV shipments overall, accounting for all technologies, with 34 percent of revenues. Within the 3D LCD TV category, Sony had the top share with 33 percent of revenues, while Samsung led 3D plasma TV revenues, at 45 percent.