Analysts say lower prices and more programming essential for growth
Seoul - As the demand for three-dimensional (3D) home televisions grows in China, competition between panel makers is expected to heat up.
Figures from China Electronic Chamber of Commerce (CECC) suggested that more than 80 percent of Chinese consumers were able to differentiate between 3D television brands in the market this year. The chamber estimated some 5 million 3D televisions will be sold by the end of 2011.
China Market Monitor Co Ltd (CMMC), a consulting firm that specializes in the retail business in China, said that 3D televisions would take about 12 percent to 15 percent of the share in the panel television sector by the end of 2011.
Displaybank, a consulting firm that specializes in the TV display industry, estimated that more than 86 percent of plasma TVs will support 3D technology by the end of 2013.
Reacting to the high demand, international panel makers are bringing their 3D technology to China with the intention of capturing market share.
LG Display (LGD), one of the largest liquid crystal display (LCD) makers by shipment volume, decided to introduce its Film-type Patterned Retarder (FPR) technology by the end of 2011. The decision came after Shutter Glass (SG) technology was introduced into the Chinese market in early 2010.
According to LGD, FPR technology is a more advanced technology than SG technology and has lower production costs. It is also flicker-free and the glasses needed for 3D shows are cheaper.
The average cost for a pair of FPR 3D glasses will be about $10. SG 3D glasses can cost as much as $100.
To better promote their latest technology, LGD stopped producing panels for SG 3D TV in November last year and focused on promoting FPR 3D technology in December.
LGD also chose to cooperate with several large TV manufacturers including SkyWorth and Panasonic to increase market share in the 3D sector.
According to CMMC, FPR technology occupied some 45 percent of market share in April, an increase from zero in less than five months.
Samsung, a big panel maker based in South Korea, said it would stick with SG technology and formed an alliance with high-end television makers such as Sharp and Sony to secure their market shares in China.
Samsung has said that LGD's technology will reduce image quality.
Although televisions and panel manufacturers are investing heavily in publicizing how excellent their technology is, consumers seem uninterested in the technicalities.
"Actually, most consumers cannot tell the difference between SG 3D TV and FPR 3D products. They pay more attention to the image quality and prices," said Dong Yongen, a manager at the visual division of Five Star Appliance Co Ltd.
Many consumers are eager to know when glass-free 3D televisions can be introduced to the market.
However, industry insiders said consumers might need to wait for about three to five years for the glass-free technology to be formally introduced.
"At present, it is hard to get a balance between price and performance (for glass-free 3D televisions), so consumers may need to wait for a few years for the products to be introduced," said Sang Beon Han, executive vice-president of LGD.
According to Han from LGD, the average price for a 3D TV is about 20 percent to 30 percent higher than ordinary TVs. In Suning's online store, The most expensive 3D TV was produced by LG with a price of 166,500 yuan ($25,615) at Suning's online store.
Although display makers are taking an optimistic attitude toward the future of 3D television, analysts said lack of content and high prices may constrain its development.
Zhao Huizhi, an analyst with China Investment Consulting, said there is a bright outlook for 3D televisions in China. However, the most important thing is to lower prices and introduce more 3D TV programs.