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April 10, 2012
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Samsung gains share, basic features most important

Samsung’s dominating share of the flat-panel TV market could rise further, given new purchase intent research from ABI Research. The Korean manufacturing giant already commands 26.3 percent of the global market, up from 21.6 percent in late 2010, and twice as high as its closest competitor, LG Electronics. (See graph, with data from NPD DisplaySearch.)

Samsung also leads the U.S. liquid-crystal display (LCD) market, given Q4 shipments as reported by IHS iSuppli. It should retain that position if the results of ABI Research’s latest Connected Home and Computing survey bear out. What ABI found is that among respondents claiming an interest in purchasing an HDTV during the first half of 2012, Samsung was most cited, at 20 percent.

In second place was Sony, at 19 percent. Previously, 27 percent of consumers surveyed had cited Sony. Other brands that saw growth in this mindshare survey were LG and Vizio.

While overall worldwide TV shipments remain huge, growth has stagnated. In 2011, shipments fell 0.3 percent to 247.7 million units, the first annual drop since DisplaySearch began tracking these numbers in 2004.  China was the top region for TV shipments in Q4, at 21 percent. North America was second at 20.5 percent.

According to ABI, basic features remain key to the U.S. market. “Consumers continue to place screen size, display technology, and above all, price, as the most vital features for future TV purchases, all of which conspire to make differentiation in the TV market increasingly difficult,” said ABI Senior Analyst Michael Inouye in a statement.

That trend toward commoditization has sidelined features that some manufacturers had counted on to spur demand. The least important feature cited by U.S. consumers when asked about purchase intent was 3D, with 42 percent now vs. 39 percent previously expressing no interest in a 3D-ready TV. “While 3D and Internet connectivity have not generated the boost to the bottom line as some had hoped, the latter at least remains an essential ingredient to best address the changing consumer landscape for CE,” Inouye said.

ABI’s Inouye said that Samsung appears to have found the right balance between pricing, features and form factor. According to IHS iSuppi Senior Analyst Tom Morrod, one thing that Samsung did during Q4 2011 in the U.S. LCD market was highlight the choice between its older cold-cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) backlighting and new and more expensive light-emitting diode (LED) technology.

Making money selling TVs is not a clear-cut proposition. Japanese CE giants Sony and Sharp have been especially challenged, as Bloomberg Businessweek reports. Sony has lost money in its TV business for years. The new Sony CEO, Kazuo Hirai, is scheduled to announce a restructuring plan on April 12 that could include up to 10,000 job losses across the company.

Another factor that could increase share for Samsung and LG is the impending removal of tariffs on Korean TV makers selling into the U.S. market.