Plasma Shipments Down, LCD Prices Fall

Plasma TV panel shipments fell 4 percent from the third to the fourth quarter of 2006, while rising only about 3 percent over the calendar year, to about 2.7 million panels. According to the latest numbers from analyst DisplaySearch, the last quarter of the year also was only the second three-month period where plasma shipments had fallen in nearly four years.

The final quarter of 2006 was also the first in which plasma panel shipments grew less than 47 percent from the previous full year. Shipments were 15 percent lower than the suppliers' aggregate forecast--and 9 percent below DisplaySearch's own forecast--according to the firm, despite decreasing price points on plasma displays.

DisplaySearch said the decline mostly can be attributed to loss-of-share to LCD screens of 50 inches and smaller, as well as the limited market for 50-inch plus sets outside North America. The plasma market continued to rapidly embrace HD formats with the share of mostly 720p and 1080 native displays jumping to 87 percent in the final quarter of 2006. (The share for 1080p rose from 1.1 to 1.3 percent in the final two quarters of the year.)

Matsushita (Panasonic brand) reclaimed the top plasma position in the fourth quarter with a 40-percent share, but the firm is wary about its success in the plasma arena for other reasons, including the likelihood that soon it may be the only major plasma maker increasing production. The second biggest seller of plasma units, LG, suffered major losses in the last quarter and will not increase its current plasma production, according to BusinessWeek.

Meanwhile, on the LCD front, a major post-holiday slowdown in demand for large screens is triggering a price drop for the flat-panels. That's good news for consumers, not so good for manufacturers' profit margins. Seasonally slow market conditions are currently resulting in over-supply, according to market researcher iSuppli this week. Price points are expected to continue dropping, said International Business Times.