It's been a good while since we offered some comments on the panel market, and particularly for TVs. There's been quite an extended period of not much positive news until the second half of 2014. It was just before the US Thanksgiving holidays when DisplaySearch released their latest report indicating (unexpected) growth in the TV panel market.
As DisplaySearch offers, "TV shipments improved 4% Y/Y in Q3’14, and LCD TV shipments alone rose nearly 9%, according to the latest findings in the Quarterly Global TV Shipment and Forecast Report, produced by DisplaySearch." The leading markets are both North America and China where 4K TVs are finally picking up momentum after being on the market for a few years. With the winter holiday buying season is still in full swing, retailers are seeing more TV movement than before. This is certainly helping a market sector that has not seen much in the way of growth:
Although 4K TVs have been available for several years now, shipments in 2014 have significantly accelerated due to broader competition and more accessible price points activating new consumer groups. 4K TV shipments jumped more than 500% Y/Y in Q3’14 to top 3 million units, bringing total shipments to 6.4 million units in 2014. (DisplaySearch)
With SmartHome at the forefront of electronics trade shows, and more consumer electronics (CE) geared to seamless integration of personal devices through smartphones, the TV market is seeing benefits. From smarter remotes that connect not just audio/visual experiences but now also temperature, lighting, and other ambient controls, TV connectivity and improvements are promoting a refresh cycle with upgrades, particularly now that 4K UltraHD has come down from initial market pricing.
Thanks to the 4K UltraHD, slimmer designs and better color and smoothing capabilities, larger TV panel sizes are particularly in demand now which has put low inventory into shortage positions for some OEMs and along some channels. That, in turn, is changing the mood of the larger panel manufacturers and allowing OEMs to hold and even increase prices (versus slashing over the holidays). As DisplaySearch presented in a different report:
Strong growth in the average sizes of LCD TVs with inventory shortages in those sizes, have transformed the industry atmosphere, enabling panel makers to increase prices and expand shipment volumes.
According to DisplaySearch, LCD TV panel shipments reached a historic high of 64 million units in Q2’14, which revealed stronger-than-expected momentum in downstream inventory preparation. The following quarter, shipments were even higher, reaching a new record high of 65 million units.
Wider panel growth
It is not just this narrow sector of the LCD TV panel market that is experiencing growth. With the increase in automotive infotainment centers, there has been strong and sustained growth supporting the automotive electronics markets for touch-screen panels in the mid- to smaller sizes. Additionally, there is a renewal of strength in notebook and PC panels, as DisplaySearch reported:
According to panel makers’ business plans, shipments of notebook PCs and mini-note panels are forecast to reach nearly 197 million units this year, up 5% Y/Y. In the first half of this year, panel makers’ conservative estimates for notebook PC panels had induced a shortage.
Beginning in 2013, panel makers upgraded to FHD and other high-resolution formats, and they also began to adopt flat light-guide backlight plates for ultra-slim panels. Slim and ultra-slim notebook PC panels had a 76% share of shipments in Q3’14.
With the expectation that 2015 will see a surge in wearable electronics devices, as offered in Global Purchasing, there will likely not be much support for panels. However, with these new wearable devices needing some form of display for interaction and viewing/analyzing data collected, there should be continued, sustainable growth and refresh for handheld devices such as smartphones, tablets and hybrid notebooks.
To be sure, we'll be watching for the latest devices on display at CES 2015! Stay tuned for our January live coverage from the trade show floor.