As TV demand increased in North America in 1H21 following the distribution of stimulus packages, TV brands continued to replenish their component inventories during this time, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Notably, brands adopted a rolling schedule for their TV shipment because their manufacturing operations for TV sets were disrupted by a shortage of panels in 2Q21. TV shipment for 1H21 reached 98.45 million units, a 10% YoY increase.
Although supply issues related TV components have become gradually alleviated in 3Q21, TrendForce believes that retail prices of TV sets in 2H21 are unlikely to reach the rock bottom levels previously seen in 1H21 because the massive price hike of TV panels in 1H21 had led to a surge in TV manufacturing costs. In addition, as the market anticipates the possibility of an overall downturn in demand despite the arrival of the traditional peak season, TrendForce has once again revised its forecast of annual TV shipment for 2021 down to 215 million units, a 0.9% YoY decrease.
Chinese and Korean TV brands were major contributors to the growth of TV shipment for 1H21 while shipment of ultra large-sized TVs remained robust
TrendForce’s findings show that, although TV shipment for 1H21 fell short of prior forecasts by 5.8%, shipment from the two largest brands SEC (Samsung Electronics Co) and LGE (LG Electronics) comprised more than 20% of total large-sized TV shipment for the first time, thereby propelling their TV shipments for 1H21 above 20.7 million units for SEC and 14.01 million units for LGE. In particular, SEC’s large-sized (65-inch and above) TV shipment underwent a staggering 25% YoY increase for 1H21. Hence, the two brands’ strategy to eschew profit loss from the surge in panel prices by upgrading their product specs and increasing the shipment of larger-sized products proved to be relatively successful.
Despite nonstop issues with the supply of components required for TV set manufacturing in 1H21, TCL and Hisense were able to lower the manufacturing costs of their TV sets by increasing their shipments and adjusting their product mixes. For 1H21, TCL and Hisense increased their TV shipments by 11.5% and 9.5% YoY to 11.05 million units and 8.94 million units, respectively, with both companies setting records in terms of shipment volumes. In particular, 55-inch (and above) TVs accounted for 36.5% and 40.2%, of the 1H21 TV shipment from TCL and Hisense, respectively, meaning they shipped more large-sized TVs in 2021 than in any previous year. Xiaomi, the only brand among the top five to record a YoY drop in its TV shipment, saw its shipment reach 5.52 million units, a 6.6% YoY decline, despite occupying a larger share of TV shipment in China compared to TCL or Hisense. While Xiaomi struggled with rising manufacturing costs due to the persistent price hike of TV panels, Xiaomi’s decline can primarily be attributed to the fact that it failed to attract consumers despite multiple promotional price cuts in 1H21.
Persistently high prices of TV panels as well as lengthened shipping times in Europe and North America will likely hinder TV sales in 2H21 despite the arrival of the traditional peak season
Issues with TV panel supply are expected to gradually become resolved in 2H21. However, TV brands still need to address ongoing challenges with high panel costs as well as lowered TV demand in Europe and the US now that pandemic-related restrictions are being lifted. From June 2020 to July 2021, prices of 32-inch panels rose by 167%, though retail prices of 32-inch TV sets rose by a mere 30-35%. Similarly, prices of 55-inch panels rose by 120% while retail prices of 55-inch entry-level and mid-range TV sets rose by only 20-25%, with high-end TVs even experiencing a price drop. In other words, promotional price cuts taking place during peak season sales this year are unlikely to be remarkable and result in noticeable sales performances.
Although third quarters have traditionally marked the start of the peak sales season and hence a period of component procurement for TV brands, retail availability of end-products, such as TV sets, was delayed by three to four weeks this year due to port congestions taking place across the globe, which indirectly led to a decline in TV brands’ procurement activities for Europe and North America. Peak season sales, in turn, will likely be relatively muted this year in view of an increase in TV manufacturing costs and lengthened shipping times. Therefore, TrendForce expects TV shipment for 2H21 to reach 117 million units, an 8.5% YoY decrease.
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As various TV manufacturers such as Samsung, LG, and TCL announced their new models equipped with Mini LED backlights at CES 2021, TrendForce’s 2021 Mini LED New Backlight Display Trend Analysis report shows that total Mini LED chip revenue from Mini LED backlight TVs to potentially reach US$270 million in 2021, as manufacturers gradually overcome technological bottlenecks and lower their overall manufacturing costs, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations.
Mini LED backlight TVs possess a highly cost-effective competitive advantage, as Mini LED backlight costs for the entry-level segment are only 50% higher than traditional LCD equivalents
TrendForce further indicates that, with regards to TV backlight technologies, the cost of Mini LED solutions is about two to three times lower than that of white OLED and entry-level, direct-lit LCD solutions. This cost difference therefore serves as Mini LED technology’s competitive advantage over its competitors in display backlight adoption. At the moment, high-end TVs contain about 16,000 Mini LED chips per TV, divided into 2,000 local dimming zones.
In this market segment, PM (passive matrix) Mini LED TV panels with BLU (backlight unit) still cost about 15% less than OLED TV panels and therefore hold a cost advantage. On the other hand, in the mid-range TV segment, each TV contains about 10,000-12,000 Mini LED chips and 500 local dimming zones, meaning the cost of Mini LED backlight integration in this market segment is about a mere 50% more than entry-level, direct-lit LCD backlight units, making Mini LED a viable alternative to traditional LCD solutions in this segment too. Given the high cost-effectiveness of Mini LED backlight units, TV manufacturers are therefore likely to adopt them as a viable technology and initiate an industry-wide competition over Mini LED TV specs this year.
HDR and 8K resolution will be the two mainstream features of high-end TVs this year. With regards to Korean brands, Samsung’s Neo QLED Mini LED TV and LG’s QNED Mini LED TV, both unveiled at CES this year, are equipped with Mini LED backlights as a performance-enhancing technical feature. These TVs feature not only 8K resolution, but also Mini LED backlight units, which require more than 20,000 Mini LED chips (divided across more than 1,000 local dimming zones, with more than 1,000 nits in peak brightness), in addition to passive matrix FALD technology, which allows for contrast ratios of 1,000,000:1, a significant improvement that puts these TVs on almost equal footing with OLED TVs in terms of image quality. At the same time, China-based TCL is also set to release its OD Zero Mini LED TV, which has comparable specs with Korean offerings and is also equipped with Mini LED backlight units. Going forward, more and more TV manufacturers, such as Hisense and Xiaomi, are expected to participate in the burgeoning Mini LED backlight TV market.
The pace of optimizing Mini LED chips, backplanes, and driver ICs will be key to the Mini LED industry’s rapid expansion
As various manufacturers successively release their Mini LED backlight TVs this year, related companies in the supply chain are expected to benefit as a result. Currently, there are multiple major suppliers of Mini LED components on the market: Chip suppliers include Taiwanese (Epistar and Lextar), Chinese (San’an and HC SemiTek), and Korean (Seoul Semiconductor) companies. Testing and sorting companies include FitTech, Saultech, and YTEC. SMT companies include Taiwan-based Lextar and China-based Hongli Zhihui. Driver IC suppliers include Taiwanese (Macroblock, Elan, Parade, Himax, and Novatek) and Chinese (Chipone) companies. Backplane suppliers include Tawanese (Apex and Zhen Ding Tech) and Korean (Young Poong Group) companies. Panel suppliers include SDC, LGD, AUO, Innolux, BOE, and CSOT.
TrendForce believes that Mini LED backlight displays currently possess a competitive advantage over OLED displays due to the former’s 15% comparatively lower cost. Ultimately, the future development and profitability of the Mini LED backlight market in the long run will depend on the continued optimization of components that account for a relatively higher allocation of backlight costs, including Mini LED chips, Mini LED backplanes, and driver ICs.
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