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Research: Growth Continues in Intensely Competitive Flatpanel Market

May 13, 2008 12:00 PM, By John W. DeWitt

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Despite the uncertain economy, sales of flatpanel displays continue to grow, with plasma displays such as NEC's 60in. PlasmaSync 60XP10 driving the strongest market growth.

Despite the uncertain economy, sales of flatpanel displays continue to grow, with plasma displays such as NEC's 60in. PlasmaSync 60XP10 driving the strongest market growth.

Demand for flatpanel displays remains surprisingly strong in the North American market, despite an uncertain economy, with significant growth occurring in segments such as businesses' meeting rooms, according to recent research reports from Pacific Media Associates and DisplaySearch. However, the economy is having an impact. Many business buyers, for example, are buying flatpanels from discount retailers. And tight margins make dealers reliant on supportive relationships with flatscreen manufacturers.

"The relationship between manufacturers and their dealers is more important than ever," says William Coggshall, president of Pacific Media. "As dealers face stiffer competition and declining profit margins in an uncertain economy, they count on their relationships with the manufacturers, and on the range of resources that they can provide."

Pacific Media recently released the results of its 12th annual survey of U.S. and Canadian flatpanel display dealers. The survey, conducted at the end of 2007, ranks 25 aspects of marketing support, products, and after-sale support according to their importance to professional AV dealers and integrators. Based on highest composite scores in the survey, dealers' top-rated overall brands are Mitsubishi for LCD flatpanels and NEC Display Solutions for plasma screens. Among the survey's other findings, Pioneer was rated highest for product quality in plasma HDTVs, while Samsung received the highest rating for on-time delivery of LCD HDTVs.

Samsung also fared well in DisplaySearch's latest sales rankings for the first quarter of 2008. "After Sony posted the top LCD TV share in Q4 '07, Samsung edged slightly higher to retake the number-one LCD TV ranking in North America for the first time since Q1 '07, rising to 12.8-percent unit share in a very competitive category," according to the research firm's most recent Global TV Shipment and Forecast Report. DisplaySearch's research indicates an intensely competitive market for LCD screens, with "the top three brands—Samsung, Sony, and Vizio—separated by less than half a point of unit share at 12.8 percent, 12.7 percent, and 12.5 percent, respectively."

Overall, DisplaySearch found, a weak U.S. economy is not deterring sales volumes—especially for LCDs, which "posted solid shipment growth in Q1 '08, beating estimates and climbing 59 percent higher than Q1 '07."

Business meeting rooms represent a continued growth area for large-screen displays, according to Pacific Media's 2007 End User Survey: Professional Flatpanel Displays.

"On average, survey respondents reported that 50 percent of their meeting rooms are currently equipped with flatpanel displays," Coggshall says. "When asked about their plans for 2008, the average result is that 62 percent of all meeting rooms will have flatpanels by the end of this year."

One interesting survey finding—indicative of purchaser price sensitivity—shows that businesses don't necessarily buy professional AV products for their meeting rooms. Pacific Media's survey respondents indicated that 43 percent of the installed large flatpanel displays are consumer models, compared with only 39 percent reported as professional models. Looking forward, the trend toward buying consumer devices is even more marked. Pacific Media found that 51 percent of respondents anticipate purchasing consumer flatscreens, with only 32 percent saying they planned to buy professional-grade models. The survey also found that 43 percent of respondents planned to buy a flatscreen at one of three major retailers—Best Buy, Circuit City, or Wal-Mart.

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