Sales of Flat-Panel Sets Soar Past Rear-Projection

Unit sales of flat-panel HD sets and business displays (LCD and plasma) in North America have far outstripped sales of rear-projection models, according to industry researcher Pacific Media Associates (PMA). Despite higher price points, flat-panels are now routinely dominating sales of models larger than 40 inches, once considered the heart of the rear-projection market.

PMA's conclusion: Consumers want thin TV sets in the digital era and will pay a premium to get them. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based firm said in the past 16 months, unit market share of flat-panel displays (again, larger than 40 inches) has nearly doubled from 32 to 62 percent.

While flat-panels continue to be sold with typical pricing well above most rear-projection units, PMA said in a statement the gap has closed "significantly" in the past six months -- from $2,000 in January 2005 to only $500 in April 2006.

Competition is reported to be the hottest in the 40- to 49-inch HD segment, with flat-panels about $1,200 more expensive than rear-projection models since the 2005 holiday buying season. Still, flat-panels have outsold rear-projection units 4-to-1 in the past six months.

Yet rear projection continues outselling flat-panels among higher-resolution models (1080p) that are larger than 50 inches, where price differences continue to be most obvious. PMA said its "monthly average street prices" are based on actual retail transactions by individual models, collected from a sampling of more than 50 major retailers throughout North America.