Analysis: As technology shifts, Asian giants wrestle for TV control

Tue Apr 24, 2012 5:43pm EDT
 

By Tim Kelly and Clare Jim

TOKYO/TAIPEI (Reuters) - LG Electronics will steal a march on its rivals by bringing forward the launch of a 55-inch flat TV using next-generation technology, raising the stakes in a cut-throat battle for the living room between Asia's top tech powerhouses.

The South Korean firm will introduce its organic light emitting display (OLED) TV in several European countries in May, well ahead of an original plan to launch in the second half, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

That would edge out cross-town rival Samsung Electronics and cement, at least for now, South Korean dominance in the television market over long-time leaders Japan, but it also highlights the fierce competition reshaping Asia's flat panel industry.

"(In the past) if you wanted a top quality TV you had to buy a Sharp, Panasonic or Sony. Those days are gone," said Steve Durose, Senior Director and Head of Asia-Pacific at FitchRatings.

The Japanese, who ruled the global TV market in the 1980s and 1990s, have been battered by their aggressive South Korean rivals, weak demand for the TVs they make and a stronger yen that erodes the value of the their exports. Sony Corp, Panasonic Corp and Sharp Corp expect to have lost a combined $21 billion in the business year just ended.

Some 200 kms across the Korea Strait, LG Electronics is expected to report a quarterly profit of $267 million later on Wednesday, even after LG Display, a flat-screen maker in which it has a near-38 percent stake, posted a $156 million operating loss for January-March. On Friday, Samsung will announce a record profit of $5.2 billion for its latest quarter alone.

The red ink bleeding across Japan's tech industry comes at a time when the TV market is heading for a technology choice - between credit-card-thin OLEDs or ultra-high definition sets - that may consign today's LCDs to the bargain shelf. Whoever can mass produce affordable OLEDs will have a headstart.

Sony, for one, will recall with concern how it lost out in a similar consumer technology battle over home videotapes in the 1980s, while Toshiba's HD DVD format was later crushed by Blu-Ray.   Continued...

 
Samsung Electronics' flat-screen television is displayed at a store in Seoul April 24, 2012. Television manufacturers from Samsung Electronics to Sony Corp are rushing to introduce next-generation flat-screen technology, looking to boost thin margins and gain market share as competition from low-cost producers intensifies. LG Electronics will steal a march on its rivals by bringing forward the launch of a 55-inch flat TV using next-generation technology, raising the stakes in a cut-throat battle for the living room between Asia's top tech powerhouses. Picture taken April 24, 2012. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji