LCD TV prices to drop fast in coming years

LCD TV prices will drop fast over the next few years before levelling off to more moderate declines.

Prices for LCD TVs are falling at a slower pace this year, but consumers will still enjoy significant price drops for the next few years, market researcher DisplaySearch said Friday.

The biggest price declines for users will come by the end of 2007, before the market begins to mature and discounts slow down. In fact, the pace at which price tags are being lowered has already slowed compared to last year.

The average selling price of a 32-inch LCD TV (liquid crystal display) in the U.S. dropped just 24 percent during the first 18 weeks of this year, compared to a 53 percent decline during the same period last year. In 37-inch screens, the price drop this year was 30 percent, compared to 53 percent a year ago.

Part of the reason for the slower price decline was that there was no oversupply, said Ross Young, president of DisplaySearch, part of the NDP Group, at an event in Taipei.

The market research company expects prices for today's LCD TV models to fall by as much as 68 percent between the end of last year through the end of 2010. Of course, vendors are likely to come up with bigger, fancier screens to tempt buyers into buying higher-priced models.

Consumers globally have been snapping up flat display TVs for the past few years. Last year in Japan, LCD TVs overtook the bulky old CRT (cathode-ray tube) TVs for the first time by the narrow margin of 47.8 percent to 46.5 percent. Flat displays are popular in Japan because most people live in apartments, so space is a premium. The smaller a company can shrink a gadget, the more likely a Japanese user will buy it.

The opposite is the case In North America, at least for LCD TVs. U.S. users tend to look for the biggest screen size they can get.

"That's because Americans like to have larger TVs, and space isn't such an issue," said Young.

Looking down the road, industry players at a flat-panel display conference here this week said they expect PDP (plasma display panel) TVs to gain in popularity, especially in larger sizes, where they will become cheaper than LCD TVs.

A few other new technologies could also become more important in the flat TV market, but no matter what the technology, the most important aspect for users is brightness.

"Brighter displays always win in the market if other conditions are the same," said Fusao Ishi, an executive advisor at Sony.

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