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Samsung Pulls Plug On Plasma

Ridgefield Park, N.J. — Samsung SDI, the company that produces display panels for TVs, said this week that it will shut down its plasma business at the end of the year.

According to a Reuters report out of South Korea, the company cited declining demand for the technology as forcing its decision to end plasma display panel (PDP) manufacturing after Nov. 30.

Samsung’s U.S. sales office issued a statement saying: “We plan to continue our PDP TV business until the end of this year, due to changes in market demand. Samsung remains committed to providing consumers with products that meet their needs, and will increase our focus on growth opportunities in UHD TVs and curved TVs.”

Despite declining popularity among the masses, many A/V enthusiasts had come to recognize plasma TV sets as offering some of the best picture quality in the market, but with customers opting more and more for large-screen LED LCD TV sets, the technology was not advancing into new resolution territory like Ultra HD.

Plasma screen sizes were also limited to 64 inches (in Samsung’s case), at a time when demand is increasing on the high end for sets measuring 70 inches and larger.

Still, PDP continued to offer some of the best black level and color performance in the business, in addition to providing the widest viewing angles and fastest motion refresh rates (600MHz or better on average).

Only the new organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology, which is still several years away from mainstream acceptance, could match or beat picture performance in those areas.

Plasma also provided some of the most aggressive price points in the business.

Panasonic opted to drop plasma production late last year, due to falling demand.

But hope remained for plasma lovers that Samsung would soldier on with the technology. The company’s top-end 2013 F8500 series sets beat out rival Panasonic’s top-end ZT60 series plasma models in best picture voting among A/V enthusiasts in an annual shootout conducted by A/V specialty retailer Value Electronics of Scarsdale, N.Y.

In the end, consumers opted for LCD TVs over plasma sets in large part because the LCD picture looked better on retail selling floors — an unfair situation, some pointed out, due to the fact that plasma screens lack the brightness levels of LCD and tended to look duller under the harsh glare of in-store lighting.

Where plasma sets really shine is in home theater rooms where ambient light can be controlled — a hard condition to replicate in a warehouse club or big-box store.

Samsung’s move leaves only LG and Chinese manufacturer COC still producing plasma displays to feed the remaining global demand.

LG executives could not be reached for comment, but industry observers said it looks doubtful the last remaining plasma panel manufacturers will continue production much longer.

Said Paul Gagnon, DisplaySearch global TV research director: “We have been forecasting that plasma production would end for almost all brands by the end of the year based on our supply chain information. We expected that both Korean makers would exit by Q4 2014 and that only Chinese PDP maker COC might continue on for a short while in 2015 for the domestic China market.”

Gagnon said Panasonic’s earlier exit “was sure to reduce market interest in PDP, but the market was already declining at the time and continued expansion of LCD capacity would only continue reducing PDP makers’ ability to compete. Not enough brands were backing PDP for it to be successful.”