Sometimes, being the videophile’s favourite isn’t enough.
Hailed for its superior picture quality but burdened by high electricity consumption, plasma television took a critical blow last week when Samsung confirmed it will end production of the displays in November, citing a plunge in consumer demand.
The SDI unit of Samsung Electronics in a statement said it will instead focus on curved and ultra HD flat screen models as it develops the next generation of high-end televisions.
Power requirements, weight and bulk have all contributed to plasma’s dwindling sales as newer technologies such as LCD and OLED offered lower prices and improving picture quality.
Samsung’s action follows similar moves by Panasonic, Sony, Hitachi and Pioneer and it will leave LG Electronics as the world’s only remaining producer of plasma displays.
Along with rear projection large-screen technology, plasma screens replaced the bulky cathode-ray vacuum tube sets that are a part of TV history.
“In the short term, it will leave a void in the marketplace,” Rasmus Larsen, founder of the FlatpanelsHD website said after leading plasma maker Panasonic last year said it pulled the plug on the technology.
Panasonic helped set the plasma demise in motion when it said the product was no longer viable from a business perspective.
“But I feel confident that OLED [organic light-emitting diode] technology will offer even more impressive picture quality in the years to come,” Larsen added.
Industry experts have long praised the wide viewing angles, deep blacks and accurate colours of plasma TVs but the units have been priced higher than comparable sized liquid crystal displays that deploy more energy efficient light emitting diode technology.
A plasma television uses ionized gas filled fluorescent chambers comprising thousands of pixels or picture elements to present eye-catching visuals over typically a 30 inch-plus screen. But it requires a thicker screen than an LED model and takes more power to operate.
LG says it will supply plasma TVs “as long as there is demand” and notes that the product line accounts for only a tiny portion of its TV revenues.
“Picture quality of plasma has always been a major driving factor for sales,” LG Canada spokesperson Court Elliott wrote in an email.
“That said, newer technologies like OLED are the future of televisions and demand for this technology continues to grow.”
In a June report El Segundo, Calif. Based market research firm IHS said while the global market for liquid-crystal display televisions was robust in the first quarter, shipments of plasma display panel TVs dropped 16 per cent year over year.
It said PDP TVs “are on their way out of the industry permanently.”
Consumer devices principal analyst Jusy Hong said LCD TV shipments climbed 4 per cent from January to March and total flat-panel TV shipments in the first quarter were up 3.3 per cent to 49.36 million units.
With aggregate shipments of 17 million units between them, Samsung and LG continued to be the top brands and makers of flat-panel TVs. Overall, the South Koreans maintained year-on-year shipment growth higher than 10 per cent for each of the three months in the first quarter—a distinction unmatched by any other group, including American- and European-based manufacturers.
Hong said the growth can be attributed to an increased push in LCD TV shipments while manufacturers pull out of the plasma business.
He said Samsung, for instance, is scaling back sharply on PDP TV shipments, and is preparing to relaunch high-definition LCD TV models in the new size range of 40 and 48 inches to replace 43- and 51-inch plasmas. Almost 100 per cent of 40-inch-and-larger LCD TVs are full high-definition models.