Plasma televisions aren't dead yet.
During the fourth quarter of 2010, worldwide plasma panel shipments were up 9 percent year-over-year, hitting a record high of 5.2 million units, DisplaySearch unveiled today in a study of the global TV market. During the period, plasma makers, including Panasonic, Samsung SDI, and LG Electronics, operated at full capacity and weren't able to keep up with demand, the research firm reported. All told, 19.1 million plasma panels shipped in 2010.
The resurgence of plasma has been somewhat surprising. Back in 2008, some wondered if the plasma business was finished after Pioneer, arguably the top plasma company in the market at the time, announced restructuring plans that included stopping production of panels. It officially discontinued its television operation in 2009. The move seemed to have good timing--plasma panel shipments worldwide hit 15.1 million in 2008 and fell to 14.8 million in 2009.
But Panasonic stuck with plasmas. And in 2010, the company was once again able to hold on to the top spot in panel production with 40.7 percent market share, DisplaySearch reported. It saw its unit shipments grow 22 percent and revenue gain by 4 percent over 2009. However, its market share declined from the 43.1 percent the company captured the prior year.
Samsung SDI followed Panasonic with 33.7 percent market share in 2010. That figure was up 2 percent year-over-year. In addition, Samsung saw its unit shipments and revenue increase by 37 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
LG's market share remained relatively unchanged, with the company gaining 0.2 percent to take 23.3 percent of the market in 2010. However, its unit shipments were up 30 percent compared with 2009, and its revenue gained 22 percent in 2010.
The resurgence of plasma in 2010 was caused mainly by consumers looking for high-quality sets at a reasonable price. In fact, DisplaySearch said the glut of LED-backlit LCDs that hit store shelves last year slowed down the rate of price drops in the LCD market. That resulted in consumers, who were driven by the "increased importance of value," opting for more plasmas.
DisplaySearch said plasma panels captured 40.8 percent market share for televisions that had screen sizes of 50 inches or larger. At the 42-inch-screen-size level, plasma had trouble competing with LCD pricing. And at 32 inches and under, LCD pricing pushed plasma out of the market.