TV screens sized 32 inches or smaller and high-definition TV-viewing PC monitors are proving to be a popular option for many price-conscious consumers in emerging markets, such as China, India and Russia.
This goes against the forecasts of LCD screen-makers who had expected premium 40-inch sets to be the biggest sellers and spent heavily in a race to build larger factories suited for larger panels.
However, it is 32-inch TVs that have proved to be the most popular model for those replacing conventional cathode-ray tubes, whose market size was around 100 million units in 2007, according to Lehman Brothers.
High-definition monitors adopting the wider TV screen format are increasingly sold for TV viewing, as new technology such as broadband TV has blurred the line between monitors and TVs.
Champ Shin, vice president in charge of TV screen sales at LG Display,
“As of now, 32-inch is almost one third of the market,” he told the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit.
“Up to now most LCD makers had focused on large screens only. But the growth rate of larger screens seems to be a bit slow.
“And there’s big demand for … TVs using monitor panels or smaller TV panels.”
This has led LG Display to switch some of its TV panel capacity to computer screen production, building a new line for smaller panels and strengthening ties with Chinese TV makers.
The company anticipates that the popularity of small-size TVs will continue for the next few quarters as the US economy stutters and the Chinese TV market takes off ahead of the Olympics.
And HB Chen, CEOof Taiwan’s AU Optronics Corp, said sales of monitor panel TVs – so-called “moniTVs” – sales could more than double in 2009 to top 50 million units.
“All these monitors can still provide very good TV performance. MoniTVs are a new segment to grow,” he said.
The entry-level 15-inch models are for students or emerging market consumers, while 19-inch is becoming a mainstream in the moniTV market.
However, Nigel Lee, a fund manager at Taiwan’s National Investment Trust, said he didn’t expect the popularity of the small-size TVs to last long.
He said aggressive price-cutting by TV makers would soon spur up demand for larger sets.
“Do you want to have that (a moni-TV) in your living room? I don’t think so. Large-size TVs will still be king in the future,” he said.
A looming panel oversupply in 2009 will only help make bigger TVs affordable sooner than expected.
After an industry-wide spending curb last year, new capacity from top makers such as Samsung and LG Display is set to hit the market early next year.
Analysts expect prices of 40-inch grade TVs in the US to fall below $1,000 by the 2008 fourth quarter, boosting demand.
Jeff Kim, analyst at Hyundai Securities, said: “Forty- and 42-inch TVs, along with the 32-inch model, will become the mainstream in the global market by 2010,” he said.
The phase-out of analog broadcasting in the US in early 2009 is also expected to speed up TV replacement demand.
," Mike Splinter, CEO of Applied Materials Inc, said: “In the US, the sweet spot is quickly moving to 40 inches.
“It (TV size) is going to continue to move up for the next few generations. I don’t know where the limit is.”
Research firm iSuppli forecasts worldwide LCD TV sales volume to top 100 million this year and reach 194 million in 2012. LCD TV shipments were at 78.5 million units in 2007.

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