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Rising Q1 LCD TV Sales Push Vizio To The Top

Growth in LCD TV sales returned during the first quarter of 2009, but increasingly cost-conscious consumers grabbed up value-positioned TV brands, led by Vizio, in record numbers, according to two separate reports on U.S. TV shipments in the period.

iSuppli and DisplaySearch each issued first-quarter (Q1) North American TV shipment reports this month showing LCD TVs continued to dominate overall TV sales in the first quarter. iSuppli showed a 10.5 percent growth rate in North American LCD TV shipments to 6.3 million units, compared with the same period a year ago, while DisplaySearch said North American LCD TV shipments rose 23 percent over the year-ago period to 7.2 million units.

Both companies found increased frugality among economy-shocked TV shoppers, as value-focused supplier Vizio seized the top market share position in the category with 21.6 percent market share, according to iSuppli, and 19 percent according to DisplaySearch.

Vizio climbed two spots to the top position, leapfrogging higher-priced former leaders Samsung and Sony, according to the studies.

However, both studies also showed that Samsung led all players in Q1 LCD and plasma TV shipments combined, with 20.5 percent of the market, followed by Vizio at 19.8 percent and Sony at 14.6 percent, according to iSuppli. DisplaySearch showed Samsung’s overall TV share at 18.2 percent, followed by Vizio at 17.9 percent and Sony at 13.2 percent.

While up from the year-ago period, sales of LCD TVs in the quarter were down 23.2 percent from the 8.1 million units sold in the fourth quarter of 2008, but iSuppli pointed out that the decline “follows the normal seasonal pattern of shipments peaking in the fourth-quarter holiday season and falling to the low point of the year in the first quarter.”

However, DisplaySearch said that Vizio 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.

Riddhi Patel, iSuppli TV systems principal analyst, said that “since the onset of the economic downturn, Vizio’s share has risen dramatically. With budgets becoming increasingly tight, consumers are finding the company’s inexpensive sets more alluring.”

iSuppli pointed to Vizio’s lowest average selling price (ASP) for a 42-inch CCFL-backlit, 60Hz refresh rate, FullHD 1080p LCD TV at $850 as an example of the price positioning that pushed the company over the top.

iSuppli said comparably configured 40-inch LCD models from Samsung and Sony had ASPs of $1,000 and $1,090, respectively, in the period.

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, DisplaySearch said.

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.

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

“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,” Paul Gagnon, DisplaySearch North America TV director said.

Funai, another major discount channel LCD TV resource that controls the Sylvania Emerson, Magnavox and Philips brands in the United States, also saw its LCD TV 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.