May 23, 2019 13:49
Korean TV makers were pushed even further into second place in the global market in the first quarter of this year by their Chinese rivals. Korean manufacturers lost their the top spot to Chinese firms in the third quarter last year, but now they have even lost ground in advanced markets like the U.S.
Market researcher IHS Markit said Wednesday that TVs made by Chinese firms like TCL and Hisense had a 33.5 percent market share out of 517.79 million TVs sold worldwide in the first quarter. Korean companies like LG and Samsung came second with 31.7 percent. The first quarter often serves as a barometer for the whole year.
Samsung and LG were still the best-selling TV brands, but Chinese companies swept third to sixth places. China's largest TV maker TCL achieved a two-digit market share for the first time ever with 10.8 percent, just two percent behind LG, and Hisense and Xiaomi both expanded their market share. Japan's Sony, which had held on to at least five percent of until last year, slid to seventh place with 4.1 percent.
Chinese TVs sold well not only in their captive domestic market but also in advanced countries such as the U.S. TCL had the biggest market share in North America for the first time with 26.2 percent. Samsung, which had dominated the region, fell a long way behind with 21.8 percent.
As quality differences dwindle, the big advantage of Chinese TVs is their price thanks to cheap supply of display panels from domestic companies such as BOE and China Star. Korean TV makers believe it will be virtually impossible to compete with Chinese firms in terms of sales volume since they cannot drop their prices much further, so instead they will try to target high-end markets with their premium QLED and OLED TVs to ensure profitability.
Samsung has focused on QLED TVs in advanced markets like Europe and North America, while LG increased its lineup of OLED TVs while slashing prices to secure the premium TV market. LG is betting on the market for large TVs over 60 inches.
"Chinese companies have sold a lot of TVs thanks to their low price, but their influence in the high-end TV market is still minimal," a Samsung staffer said.
But they are catching up fast, and industry watchers say it is only a matter of a year or two before their products are at the same technological level. Where they lag behind is in brand power, but that too is a matter of time, just as Samsung eventually overtook Sony.
"If they rest on their laurels, Korean companies will be overtaken by Chinese firms, just like Japanese TV makers were by Korean ones," said one insider.
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