April 29, 2009, 10:14 AM — Sales of plasma display panels are slipping, some new research released Tuesday suggests. Plasma shipments fell a full 22 percent in the first quarter of 2009 compared with the same time last year, according to a report by tech analysis firm DisplaySearch. From quarter to quarter, demand for plasma displays dropped 28 percent.
Trouble in Plasma-Land
The decline is just the latest blow to a business that's seen more than its share of recent strikes: Pioneer stopped its plasma production just last month, and Vivio announced plans to back out of the market in February. It's not hard to understand why, either: According to some estimates, manufacturers are selling seven times as many LCD units as plasma displays. Even LG, one of only three major plasma-makers remaining, is fighting off rumors that it's getting out of the game.
Worse yet, the plasma industry's attempts to keep people buying may actually be backfiring. Companies have been lowering prices to encourage purchases, DisplaySearch says, and that's caused plasma-related revenues to take a tough hit--falling 36 percent from year-to-year in 2009's first quarter.
Across the market, Panasonic saw the strongest performance this past quarter, snagging 37 percent of plasma panel shipments worldwide. Samsung came in next with 31 percent, and LGE followed with 26 percent.
The reasons for the decline are multifold, according to DisplaySearch's Paul Gagnon. "It is a combination of things: Some lower demand, continued competitive pressure from LCD, and fiscal year-end panel maker inventory draw downs, which led to some shortages and the exit of several brands (Pioneer, Vizio)."
The Future of Plasma Sales
The best weapon plasma has in the battle against LCD may be size (which, in this domain, does seem to matter): Plasma displays over 50-inches were the only ones to see significant growth in the early part of the year. The larger-sized models, analysts say, are typically where plasma displays have the most competitive pricing against the LCD alternatives.
Industry experts expect to see plasma companies focusing on technology improvements to score more sales in the coming months. With the LCD market suffering losses of its own right now, the game isn't over yet--and it's far too soon to call plasma as being down for the count.