TV sector doldrums
DisplaySearch recently reported, CRT and plasma TVs "[...] will all but disappear by the end of 2015, as manufacturers cut production of both technologies in order to focus on LCD, which has become more cost competitive. OLED is expected to grow as an alternative flat panel display technology for TVs but is expected to account for less than 1% of shipments through 2017." Looking forward along the TV sector forecast, there is little in store to drive the general market into a demand-cycle. Present outlooks are forecasted to hold in the low single digits through 2017.
One bright spot, however, are the high-end (and high priced), Ultra High Definition (HD) (also called the 4k Ultra or 2160p) displays which were displayed at CES 2014, among other events. As Electronic Design reminds us, this newer display technology for monitors and TVs boasts truly amazing resolutions and viewing, with roughly 8 million pixels, four times the number of pixels in the current HD's 1080p displays. However, along with the amazing quality comes a significant price. Those high prices will likely mean that Ultra HD displays will be more widely produced in the larger size ranges where resolution (and willingness of consumers to pay more) is likely to drive uptake, at least initially.
One other factor that will hold back some of the initial market demand for Ultra HD is the lack of native, streaming content at that level. While movies are likely to be the first available and likely to be supported by Blu-ray devices as well, it will take some time for native content to grow – however, once it does, that will be an important market driver for the new display sector.
Panel sector expanding – but not in size
In conjunction with the declining TV sales as well as efficiency improvements requiring fewer LED chips, LED chips for LCD backlighting are also seeing a downturn in sales, according to a recent DisplaySearch report. Importantly, the market strength of mobile devices is offsetting some of the drop for flat panel display technologies though.
As yet another DisplaySearch research report points out, the diverging trends for the TV segment versus small- to medium-size panels for displays will continue to grow:
Worldwide FPD revenues are expected to reach $131 billion in 2014, which is just 1 point higher than the previous year. While revenues for mobile phones, mobile PCs, automobile monitors, public displays, and OLED TVs grow, display revenues for LCD TVs, plasma TVs, digital still cameras, and amusement devices will decline. The decline in LCD TV revenue is especially sharp, due to price erosion for 40" and larger panel sizes. LCD TV panel revenues are expected to fall from $53 billion in 2013 to $49 billion in 2014. At the same time, mobile PC display revenues are expected to climb from $20.3 billion to $21.2 billion in 2014, and mobile phone displays from $28.9 billion to $33.6 billion.
LEDs finding a new shining light
Although there are significant challenges in the display market, the growth of small- to medium size displays is important for the sustained growth of the LED chip sector. Growth is not limited to viewing alone though, there is good growth now from the maturing LED lighting sector as incandescent light bulbs are being removed from markets by regulations and consumers are (finally) truly embracing LED lighting choices for energy efficiency. Granted the decline in LED pricing for lighting has dramatically improved the market conditions, but businesses are also increasing the use of LED tube lighting over fluorescents. In all, the trajectory for LED lighting chip revenue through 2017 is forecasted to surpass LED backlighting chip revenues, significantly, according to DisplaySearch:
[…]worldwide LED lighting chip sales reached $1.1 billion in 2013 and are predicted to reach $3.4 billion in 2017.
[…] LED backlight chip sales reached $2.0 billion in 2013, but are forecast to decrease to $1.4 billion in 2017. By comparison, consumer demand for LED lighting has increased since 2012 and is expected to keep growing through 2017.