Korean TV giants overtake their Japanese rivals

Korea's two big TV-making companies, LG and Samsung, aren't just stealing up on the established Japanese names – the Korean duo has just overtaken them!

Despite there being just two Korean players in the flatscreen TV game, against more than ten Japanese companies selling to the global market, the combined market share of LG and Samsung (above) in the final three months of last year was 34%, against 31% for the Japanese TV-making industry.

And while Japan was still just ahead on total sales for 2011, with a 35% share of the global flatscreen market, Korea was hot on its heels with a 33% market-share, and is expected to overhaul its Japanese rivals this year.

Chinese TV companies also showed how fast they're advancing, taking 20% of the market in Q4 2011.

In sales (the amount of revenue, rather than the numbers of sets sold), the Korean manufacturers are even further ahead of the Japanese, with a 40% share of the global market in the last quarter of 2011 against 30% for Panasonic, Sharp, Sony and co.

For the full year, the scores were Korea 30%, Japan 34%, while the Korean duo accounted for 45% of the global 3D TV market last year, with Japan and China each managing 25%.

Part of the problem for the big Japanese names is the slump in sales on their domestic market: Japanese consumer electronics sales as a whole were down almost 34% year-on-year in January, marking the sixth month in a row when sales have been below 2010 levels.

And TVs were hit hard: sales of TVs and other visual were down 52% year on year, while shipments of flatscreen TVs to Japanese retailers fell 62.5% to their lowest level since the same month in 2008.

Japan's Olympic hopes

No wonder, then, that Japanese consumer electronics companies are looking to one significant event to give their sales a kick up the backside: the 2012 Olympics.

An economic research institute in Japan has calculated that the London Olympics should deliver about Y460bn (£3.bn) in extra spending, which is some way short of the Y610bn (£4.84bn) delivered on average by the past three Summer Olympics.

The expected spend this year is about on a level with that experienced during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with the average for the last three games being skewed by the boom-time of the 2004 Athens games, when Japanese athletes won 37 medals and the economy experienced an Y800bn (£6.35bn) boost.

However, analysts suggest TV sales will still struggle in Japan unless the country's team hits a similar winning streak in London, and that most of the extra spending is more likely to be on electricity, food and drinks for late-night viewing sessions due to the time difference between London and Tokyo.

It's likely some Japanese TV manufacturers and retailers are viewing Team Japan's Olympic preparations with more than a passing interest…

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Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.