Plasma TV Is "Dead"...But Why?

Written by Oonagh Reidy     11/07/2014 | 09:38 | Category: INDUSTRY

Less than 1 million Plasma TV's will be sold in 2015, despite Panasonic and Samsung pulling the plug on this early TV technology, but why is plasma being killed off?

Plasma TV Is

AS Samsung pulls the plug on Plasma TV's, analyst now predict shipments to half in 2014 as other major vendors including LG look to stop selling what is still being described as the best TV display technology. 

Analysts IHS estimate Plasma TV shipments will half to 5.5 million in 2014 from just under 10 million shipments last year, and  demand to slump to under one million in 2015 when shipments will cease for most regions.

IHS expects that LG will halt its Plasma Display Production (PDP) production later this year and Chinese brand Changhong to follow suit.

Popularity contest

But why did the superior Plasma TV technology die such a death? 

"Samsung's exit of the Plasma market is something that we've been expecting for a while, particularly since last year's Panasonic exit," Veronica Gonzalez-Thayer, Consumer Electronics analyst, told Channel News. 

"Manufacturers are moving away from Plasma mostly due to lack of consumer demand, deciding to focus on other technologies and improving LCD TVs - like developing Ultra High Definition or '4K'."

LCD TV have won the popularity contest due to their smaller screen size, energy efficiency and pricing, compared to Plasma, says Gonzalez-Thayer. 

The Plasma industry has been competing with LCD in the TV space for 10 years. Brightness and power consumption were the main disadvantages of Plasma displays over LCD, says Jusy Hong , IHS Analyst, Consumer Devices. 

"This produced negative consequences for the public perception of PDP TV, making it appear old and less attractive to the consumer. The high ambient lighting in retail stores also made the PDP look very dark in comparison to LCD."

But the huge level of investment by vendors into LCD was also a reason it pushed the technology to consumers over Plasma, especially in a time when margins are already tight. The scale of LCD industry is much bigger - LCD displays are found on smartphones to tablets and TVs. 

Korean brand LG and Samsung pushed LCD while waning Japanese makers Panasonic, Hitachi and Pioneer were the main brands focusing on Plasma. 

Hitachi and Pioneer exited the Plasma business in 2009 and Panasonic just recently ditched production. 

Last week, TV giant Samsung announce it would end production of Plasma TV displays this year, citing lack of demand and  plans to focus on 4K UHD and Curved TV's. 

LED-backlight LCD TVs have been "very successful" as they are available in 42-inches screens and below  -  the smallest size a Plasma screen is available in  - despite demand for bigger screen sizes growing, says Gonzalez-Thayer

"LED TVs have also improved their black levels, however not nearly as good as Plasma which is one of its key advantages, they're more energy efficient and their pricing has declined significantly in the past few years, becoming more accessible for the average consumer."

"End of an era"  

"Its very sad.. the end of an era," Len Wallis, owner of Sydney-based AV retailer Len Wallis Audio laments.

But he believes - along with many others - that Plasma far superior display and picture quality to LCD. 

His store has one or two Plasma models from an older Panasonic series and once these are sold thats the end of it. There are two main reasons Plasma TV died, the AV retailer believes. 

All manufactures complain they can't make money from Plasma screens but, it's a "silly argument as the superior [Plasma] technology could have worn a superior price." Plasma's are now being sold at less than LCDs.

Bias vendor marketing behind LCD's is also to blame, as it "picked holes" in Plasma screen technology. "People go with what they are told to go with.  

"We defended Plasma technology every day," says Wallis who believes the TV industry is going backwards from LED to LCD for size and thinness factors.

In relation to the new 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) technology is "a step in the right direction as long as content can be sourced for it." 



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