LCD TV Sales Up… and Down

DisplaySearch has released their information on worldwide LCD TV shipments (from manufacturers, as opposed to the sales by retailers) for the first quarter of 2009, and the trend is familiar. The number of units shipped — 26.7 million — was up 27% compared with the first quarter of 2008, but the revenues actually declined 1% for the same periods. In other words, what the increased consumer demand added with one hand, the lower prices took away with the other.

One thing missing from these numbers a breakout by size of the TV set. I would not be surprised to find that many of the additional units sold this year were smaller sets with lower prices. This would help increase the count without adding as much revenue. The fact that prices continued to plummet last year, however, is a much bigger factor behind why the manufacturers are making less money even though they are selling more TVs.

Note that some sources are indicating price increases for LCD TVs this year; some predict increases of as much as 30%. I don’t see that happening. It’s very hard to take back a price cut once it’s out there in the market, and there are many hungry manufacturers out there willing to keep prices as low as possible so that they can stay in business. I don’t expect yet another year of 20% to 25% price cuts, but I also don’t expect to see prices rise a lot this year, either.

There are two other interesting numbers in the DisplaySearch results. Plasma TVs accounted for 2.8 million unit shipments, which is about one tenth the number of LCD TVs shipped. That’s only a 1% increase over the same quarter last year, which means that LCD technology is increasing its lead in flat panel TVs. The other fact might come as a surprise in to U.S. consumers where the flat panel technology rules supreme; about 13.7 million picture tube (CRT) TVs shipped worldwide in the first quarter of 2009. That’s neary five for every one plasma TVs shipped, and more than half the count for LCD TVs. So while pictures tube sets may be forgotten, they’re not gone yet.