The stay-at-home economy brought about a soaring demand for TVs, which in turn resulted in a shortage of TV panels in 2H20, according to TrendForce. Also contributing to the bullish rebound of TV panel quotes last year was the fact that most panel manufacturers rapidly decreased their supply of TV panels around this time.
After the upturn of panel quotes kicked off in late 2Q20 and came to a temporary slowdown at the end of the year, this upward momentum once again intensified in mid 1Q21 without warning, and clients on the purchasing end were caught off guard as a result.
TV brands are now at the mercy of panel suppliers since panels are an irreplaceable component in the production of TV sets. Being unable to effectively address the shortage and price hike of TV panels during the current surge in TV sales, TV brands have no choice but to react by buying up TV panels as they become available, thereby further driving up prices of TV panels.
Upward trajectory of TV panel quotes will likely taper in 3Q21 after TV brands successfully retool their procurement strategies.
The movement of prices in the panel market suggests that TV panel quotes will most likely peak at the end of 2Q21, plateau throughout 3Q21, and face downward pressure caused by an expected easing of demand for TVs in 4Q21. Although fourth quarters have traditionally been peak seasons for TV sales, TrendForce expects such major seasonal discounts as Black Friday sales to be cancelled this year in light of persistently high panel prices. TV sales in 4Q21 are therefore expected to be relatively muted as well.
On the other hand, as more and more of the general public receive vaccines, recreational activities, at least in developed countries such as the US, are expected to gradually move from the confines of indoor environments to the great outdoors.
Should this transition take place, TV brands and distributors alike will conservatize their outlooks of TV sales and of safe inventory levels, respectively, with brands lowering their panel procurement and distributors performing appropriate inventory adjustments. TrendForce analysts expect that TV panel quotes will enter a bearish trend in 4Q21 and gradually return to a cyclical downturn in 1H22.
Owing to demand generated by the persistent stay-at-home economy last year and from the emerging markets in certain developing countries, global TV shipment for 2021 is expected to reach 223 million units, a 3.1% growth YoY, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. The delay of UEFA Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics until this summer will likely also play a role in driving up TV demand, regardless of whether live attendance will be allowed at the events. However, prices have increased repeatedly and considerably for not only IC components (used in TV set assembly), which are in shortage due to tight foundry capacities, but also TV panels. The price hike of TV panels has persisted since last June, with 32-inch panels, which are indicative of the rest of the TV panel market, reaching a massive 134% price hike for the period.
TrendForce’s investigations also show that the increase in panel prices has made it difficult for white-label manufacturers and tier 2/3 brands, which have traditionally relied on aggressive pricing to achieve their sales performances, to procure sufficient panels. Case in point, TV shipment from these companies has been gradually declining since last year. Conversely, suppliers have been giving major TV brands top priority ahead of the aforementioned companies to procure both panels and components because major TV brands generally place orders regularly and in large quantities. For the first time ever, the combined market shares of the top five brands, which are Samsung, LG, TCL, Hisense, and Xiaomi, surpassed 60% last year. This figure is expected to further increase to 62% in 2021, representing the fact that the TV market is progressively becoming an oligopoly.
As brands begin to favor large-sized products, 60-inch and larger TVs are expected to account for 17.7% of total TV shipment for the first time ever
With regards to various TV sizes, 32-inch panels have more than doubled in price since the start of the upturn last June. In response, TV brands have been transitioning their product lines to TVs that are at least 55 inches in size. More specifically, 55-inch TVs and ultra-large-sized TVs (60-inch and above) will account for 20% and 17.7% of the total TV shipment this year, respectively. Whereas the 20% shipment share of 55-inch TVs remained the same as last year, the 17.7% shipment share of ultra-large-sized TVs is 3.3% higher than last year’s figure. With regards to the annual shipment of ultra-large-sized TVs, 2021 marks a year of considerable growth compared to previous years, which generally saw YoY increases of 1-2%. This growth reflects the necessity for TV manufacturers to quickly leverage the consumer demand for large-sized TVs in order to maintain a stable growth in the industry, given the substantial price hike of TV panels.
As the difference between OLED and LCD panel prices narrows, TV brands are compelled to accelerate their OLED TV strategies
In response to the massive price hike of LCD panels, TV brands have begun to slightly raise the retail prices of TVs across various segments in order to keep up their bottom lines. However, if brands were to at once completely offload the increase in panel prices to the retail end, consumer demand would plummet as a result. A slow and gradual price hike is therefore expected to take place instead. Incidentally, it should be pointed out that the price hike of TV panels would be unlikely to stop in the short run even if the current panel shortage were alleviated in the future. As such, TV brands are expected to have limited room for profit growth in 2Q21.
The OLED panel market, on the other hand, has taken an opposite turn compared to the LCD market. For instance, prices of 55-inch UHD OLED panels were four times the prices of equivalent LCD offerings at the start of 2020, 2.9 times at the end of 2020, and 2.2 times in 1Q21, while prices of LCD panels underwent monthly increases. In addition to the narrowing gap between OLED and LCD panel prices, the panel industry’s production capacity for OLED panels saw a major boost thanks to the capacity expansion of LGD’s Gen 8.5 fab in Guangzhou. TrendForce expects OLED TV shipment for 2021 to reach 6.76 million units, a staggering 72% increase YoY, as OLED offerings become the top strategic priorities of TV brands in the high-end TV market this year.
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