Worldwide TV shipments drop nearly 8%

In the steepest rate of decline since 2009, worldwide TV shipments totalled 51 million units in the first quarter of 2012, an almost 8 per cent drop, according to DisplaySearch.

The biggest contributor was a slowdown in shipments of LCD TVs, which declined 3 per cent from last year to 43 million units. In the first quarter alone, LCD shipments dropped 33 per cent, though the sets still nabbed more than 80 per cent of the market, DisplaySearch said

LCD units are, however, picking up the slack in the 40in and larger screen arena. The average LCD TV screen size increased 5 per cent this year, surpassing the 35-incher for the first time.

"Soft demand and cautious expectations about the upcoming year in many parts of the TV supply chain have led to a slowdown in shipments," Paul Gagnon, NPD DisplaySearch director of North America TV Research, said in a statement.

Oddly, retailers sold more than 5 million of the bulky cathode-ray tube (CRT) sets this year, more than plasma display (3 million) and rear-projection TVs (25,000) combined. DisplaySearch attributed this to a "seasonal shift to emerging markets where CRT demand is higher."

According to Gagnon, markets like India, South America and areas of Mexico continue to ship CRT TVs, though US users have not been able to get them since 2008. Since LCDs overtook CRT TVs a few years ago, CRTs have steadily held the number two spot in terms of shipment volumes, though Gagnon said they are in danger of falling to third.

The popularity of plasma TVs among consumers is also waning, though a specific reason is "kind of a mystery," Gagnon said. A large majority of the recent plasma shipment volume remains centred on low-cost 2D HD models, indicating shoppers are focused on price when looking at plasma TVs.

Still, the demand for larger-sized TV sets continues to grow, the company said. The market share for 40in and larger TVs increased from just below 31 per cent a year ago to more than 37 per cent in 2012. As 44-inch to 50-inch LCD TVs become more affordable, reaching average prices below $600 (£380) and $1,000 (£640), respectively, buyers are more likely to shell out their money for a larger-than-life TV-watching experience.

In a twist on traditional television, 3D TV shipments continue to grow, DisplaySearch reported, rising to more than 14 per cent of total TV shipments and 16 per cent of flat-panel shipments.

Still, Samsung remains number one in the flat panel TV brand, earning global revenue share that remained around 26 per cent - near record levels, DisplaySearch said. LG came in second, with Sony rounding out the top flat-screen TVs based on revenue.

Sharp, resting in the number four slot, unveiled this week its largest commercially available LED-backlit LED HDTV, the Aquos LC-90LE745U. The 90in HDTV has a huge name and an even bigger price tag, landing at $10,999 (£7,000).

In the television's defence, Sharp claims it uses less than 150 watts of power, and costs an average of $28 (£18) per year to run. The TV set is now available at home entertainment retailers.