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Digital Sets Propelling PTV Growth, USPL Reports

The leading supplier of glass lenses for projection TV sets predicted PTV sales climbing 18.2% this year to 1.55 million units, spurred by the tripling of volume of digital and digital-ready sets to 400,000 units.

The findings — part of the 18th edition of “PTV Past & Future” from U.S. Precision Lens — said sales of analog models will decline for the first time in 13 years from 1.2 million to 1.17 million sets. Similarly, the Consumer Electronics Association has predicted sales of analog models dropping 9% to 1.12 million in 2000.

U.S. projection set sales surged 36% in the fourth quarter of 1999 to hit 1.33 million units, up 20% over full-year 1999 numbers.

The unexpectedly strong activity left the industry with an unusually low inventory of only 2,741 sets as 2000 arrived. The stronger-than-average fourth-quarter performance was attributed in large part to the arrival of DTV and DTV-ready models.

“The result in 1999 was 9.3 percentage points of growth attributable to digital sales, on 23.1% growth over 1998 sales to dealers,” USPL reports.

The new technology brought greater numbers of shoppers to stores, resulting in better sales. DTV-capable sets accounted for 7.5% over overall sales in 1999, USPL said.

USPL also attributed 1999 results to the impact of DVD players, which exploded from 1 million to more than 4 million players last year.

“With sales of DVD players forecast to grow over 50% in 2000, this should continue to have a positive impact on the sale of home theaters that include a PTV,” USPL said.

The company said the activity surrounding DTV products will continue in the years ahead. It predicts sales of fully integrated HDTV sets will surpass both analog and HDTV-ready models by 2003-2004 as the price of decoders comes down — which will “sustain the double-digit percentage growth rate of projection TV models” as the digital evolution continues.

U.S. purchasers still do not accept sales of widescreen (16:9) digital projection sets, although the format gained momentum in the early weeks of 2000, USPL said. Widescreen models accounted for 43% of DTV purchases in 1999 but grew to 53% in January.

“We hasten to remind that digital sets comprised less than 8% of U.S. PTV sales in 1999,” the report stated, adding that widescreen sales will not be popular in the U.S. until more widescreen programming is made available.

In conclusion, USPL said “sales of PTVs that can display only NTSC signals will be overtaken by DTV-ready sets in the next few years. We see DTV-ready sets providing growth in the market until sets with ATSC decoders built in are comparably priced, sometime around 2003. DTV-ready sets will then drop off as consumers favor DTV sets.”