Global shipments of LCD TV sets totaled 47.75 million units for the second quarter of 2018, according to WitsView, a division of TrendForce. This shipment figure represents a quarterly decrease of 3.8%, as a result of the high inventory level of channel distributors. For the rest of this year, the surging panel prices will bring more uncertainties in 2H18. Considering the lower-than-expected shipments in 2Q18, WitsView expects the shipments for the whole year to increase by 2.3% YoY to 215.7 million units, lower than the previous forecast of 219 million.
“The TV market had remarkable shipments in the first quarter thanks to the stock-up demand for the World Cup”, says Jeff Yang, the research manager of WitsView. “However, the high inventory level of channel distributors has affected the market since the second quarter.” As the result, TV brands have adjusted their shipping schedules and panel purchases. Despite the upcoming peak season in the third quarter, it would be difficult for TV brands to offer promotions if the panel prices surge too high. The demand would also be restrained by the high panel prices.
Falling panel prices in 1H18 may help QLED TVs gain more cost advantages
Samsung, the leading TV maker, attempts to capture more of the high-end market segment with its QLED TVs, but the sales turned out to be lower than expected last year in the fierce competition with OLED TVs. Samsung has been actively shipping its excess channel inventory of older products in 1H18. In addition, QLED TVs, which are based on the structure of LCD panel and QD film, managed to gain more cost advantages thanks to the low panel prices. However, as QLED TVs target at the high-end market segment, the annual TV shipments of Samsung would continue to decrease to 41 million units.
While Samsung heavily invests in QLED TV business, LG Electronics (LGE) and Sony have adopted less aggressive strategies, taking respective second and fifth place in the 2Q18 shipment ranking. They have achieved better-than-expected profitability and maintained a healthy level of inventory thanks to continued promotion of OLED products. In the second half of this year, LGE will continue to expand the share of OLED TV in its product mixes, which would help increase its annual shipments slightly to 28.6 million units. In terms of SONY, it will strategically abandon some of its low-end and non-profitable products in order to maintain its brand positioning in the high-end market. As the result, SONY would post marginal decreases in annual shipments, which are estimated at 11.6 million units.
Chinese TV brands are actively expanding in the global market
Chinese brands TCL and Hisense have promoted their brand awareness during the World Cup, through celebrity endorsements and official sponsorships respectively. They took third and fourth place respectively in the second quarter shipment ranking although the stock up demand ended earlier than expectation. According to the forecast of WitsView, their shipments for the whole year of 2018 will be approximately 16.6 million and 13.8 million units.
As the Chinese TV market gradually grows saturated, the expansion in overseas markets has become the key to the growth of Chinese TV brands. TCL has been actively expanding in North America and other overseas markets with its cost advantages brought by in-house panel supply from CSOT. Hisense also explored overseas businesses through the purchase of Toshiba Visual Solutions Corporation (TVS) and using the Toshiba brand for a period of 40 years. It is expected that Chinese brands will be increasingly influential in the global TV market.
Surging panel prices in 3Q18 may become a potential risk for brands in the peak season
Entering the third quarter, the prices for 32-inch panels have rebounded, leading to the price surge of panels of other sizes. To avoid panel shortages in the busy season, TV brands and OEMs have started to compete for panel supply and are willing to buy panels at higher prices. For the brands, they will be able to set the TV prices for promotions only when the panel prices are stable. Therefore, the rising costs of panel and supply uncertainties will bring potential risk to brands in the peak season.