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4K TV Sales Shine As Overall TV Sales Slip In North America

Flat-panel TV shipments in North America grew 2 percent in units in the fourth quarter of 2015, but full-year 2015 sales nonetheless fell 1 percent to 43.05 million units despite surging Ultra HD 4K TV sales, research company IHS said.

The company forecast a 2.2 percent decline in overall 2016 TV shipments to 42.1 million units.

Shipments (sell-in to retailers) fell in 2015 because of a drop in plasma units to a mere 9,000, but all other segments rose. LCD TV shipments posted a gain of 1.1 percent to 42.97 million, with OLED TVs rising 421 percent to 72,800.

In 2016, however, IHS forecast an LCD decline of 2.6 percent to 41.84 million, though OLED shipments will rise 356 percent to 260,000.

Winners by size: Another 2015 winner was the 40- to 49-inch segment, whose unit shipments grew 13.1 percent to 12.58 million. Shipments of 50-inch TVs, however, fell 2.6 percent to 13.05 million.

In 2016, IHS forecast growth in both size segments, with 40- to 49-inch shipments growing 12.8 percent and shipments of TVs with a minimum 50-inch screen size growing 20.9 percent.

4K sales: In the fourth quarter and calendar 2014, Ultra HD 4K TVs were a big winner. Fourth-quarter 4K shipments rose 214 percent to 3 million, and for the full year, 4K shipments rose 310 percent to 6.3 million.

Perhaps surprisingly, the percentage of 4K TVs with smaller screen sizes grew in 2015. In 2014, 11 percent of 4K TVs shipped had screen sizes of less than 50 inches, but in 2015 that mix jumped to 20 percent, said IHS analyst Paul Gagnon. “Low prices helped that with the average 48- and 49-inch 4K price falling from more than $1,000 at the beginning of the year to just $646 in Q4 ’15. That was the highest rate of price erosion from Q1 to Q4 of any 4K size category.”

Gagnon also said retail inventories at the end of the year rose because second-half shipments rose while retail-level sales fell in the second half.