Digital PTV Doubled To 53% of Projection Market In 2001

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Get ready to once again play the projection TV (PTV) numbers game. Were PTV sales up in 2001? Were PTV sales down in 2001?

If you answered "yes" to both questions, give yourself a prize for having a good memory. According to figures from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), projection TV sales suffered their second consecutive year of decline in 2001. For the year, CEA reports, PTV sales to dealers were down a sharp 23.3 percent to 933,100, falling short of the million-unit level for the first time since 1997.

But those CEA figures include only analog PTVs, and those, as it turns out, represent less than half of the market story.

For the more complete picture of the giant screen market we turn to the annual market study PTV Past & Future, prepared by Corning Precision Lens (CPL), the leading supplier of lenses to manufacturers of PTV tubes and other display generating systems.

While agreeing with CEA data for the analog PTV market, CPL reports that in 2001 the industry also sold 1.04 million digital PTVs. That was up 112.8 percent from the 487,100 sold in 2000. When added to the analog results, it shows that a new record high of 1.97 million projection TVs were sold last year, up 15.6 percent from the year-earlier 1.7 million.

But despite the record, CPL acknowledges that sales for 2001 were something of a disappointment. Though analog PTV sales exceeded CPL's own forecast of just 900,000, digital PTV volume was short of its sales prediction calling for 1.2 million.

In addition to providing a more complete view of the overall PTV market, an analysis of related figures issued by CEA and CPL supplies a detailed look at the overall market for digital color TVs.

As previously announced by CEA, the total market for digital TV displays of all types jumped 125.1 percent to 1.46 million last year from the 648,400 sold in 2000. Subtracting CPL's data for digital PTV sales indicates that sales of direct-view digital TVs jumped 162.4 percent in 2001 to 423,300 from the year-earlier 161,300. It also shows that the share of the digital market accounted for by PTVs declined slightly to 71 percent in 2001 from the 75.1 percent held in 2000.

According to CEA, 70,295 of the digital TVs sold last year were integrated — that is, they included tuners for the reception of off-air and cable digital TV signals. CPL reports that only 5 percent of the total digital TVs sold were integrated, including 51,800 PTVs and 18,500 direct-views. So digital tuning was included in 6.8 percent of digital PTVs, and just 4.4 percent of digital direct-views.

Digital's share of the PTV market nearly doubled last year, rising to 52.6 percent from 28.6 percent. While digital's share of the direct-view market (excluding TV/VCR combinations) almost tripled in 2001, its rise was from a scant 0.7 percent to a still miniscule 2 percent. The difference in digital's inroads, CPL says, is most certainly related to the price differential between analog and digital receivers. While retail pricing of digital projection TVs has fallen to competitive levels against their analog counterparts, CPL notes, there is still a major price gap between digital direct-view sets and similarly sized analog versions.

Another factor boosting demand for PTVs in the digital arena is the relatively low premium for widescreen display. CPL says 53 percent of digital PTVs sold in 2001 had 16x9 screens, up from just 36 percent in 2000. CPL gives credit for this to DVDs, which are providing the needed widescreen programming.

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