U.S. TV sales shrink nearly 10%

The average price for big-screen smart TVs fell 3% last year

The U.S. television market saw a 9% loss in unit sales last year due to low demand, according to a report from IHS.

The report attributed the low demand to a market where consumers have little interest in buying new TVs after upgrading to high-definition, flat screen models less than 10 years ago.

U.S. TV shipments in 2013 declined to 34 million units, compared to 37.5 million in 2012.

Last year, the U.S. television market consisted entirely of liquid-crystal display (LCD) and plasma display panel (PDP) sets, with old analog tube-type TVs long gone and the last rear-projection TVs having exited the market completely in 2012.

Both the LCD and PDP segments lost volume in 2013 from a year earlier. LCD TV shipments slid to 31.9 million units, down 6%, and PDP TV shipments plunged 42% to 2.1 million.

Samsung's 110-in UHD-TV displayed at the CES conference in January.

The largest plasma makers, such as Panasonic, have said they will discontinue producing large-screen plasma TV models due to cost.

"The TV market in the United States has reached a point of saturation following a period of huge growth in years past, especially as the flat-panel-TV craze set in," said IHS TV analyst Veronica Gonzalez-Thayer. "As a result of the market's maturity, and also because of lingering uncertainties in the economy, American consumers have been less eager to rush out and buy new replacement TV sets."

The sharp decline in sales marks a big change from robust earlier years. From 2009 to 2011, the U.S. TV market grew or remained at healthy levels, and each year saw shipments of more than 38 million units. In contrast, 2012 volume was less than 37 million, and shipments last year dipped below the 34 million mark for the first time in five years, IHS said.

While Plasma TVs are on their way out, the LCD TV segment was down for the second year in a row.

The decline in U.S. TV shipments last year also translated to lower revenue, which was down 12% to $23.5 billion from $26.9 billion in 2012, IHS stated.

The one bright spot in IHS's report was an increase in the shipments of large, smart TVs, which have features such as Internet connectivity and full high-definition 1080p resolution. Overall, however, those increases did not offset a 3% decline in prices for the units, Gonzalez-Thayer said.

Panasonic's UHD Smart TV comes with Web browsing and native media streaming capabilities.

Gonzalez-Thayer said the TV market will start to stabilize this year as the consumer purchase cycle readjusts after two years of continuous losses. Shipment growth will be flat to slightly positive in 2014, she predicted.

And for the first time, active-matrix organic light-emitting-diode (AMOLED) TVs will be entering the U.S. market in perceptible volume.

The IHS report shows about 8,000 AMOLED TVs are expected to ship in 2014.

AMOLED TVs feature super-thin formfactors and significantly improved contrast ratios. Gonzalez-Thayer said those features could appeal to TV connoisseurs eager to become first adopters, even though the new TVs comes with steep pricing that puts them out of the reach of most consumers.

Watch closely and you'll see Samsung's OLED UHD-TV bend out and then back in.

Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

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