Worldwide television shipments fell nearly 8% year over year in the first quarter, marking the steepest rate of decline since the second quarter of 2009.
TV shipments totaled 51 million units for the quarter, according to a report from NPD DisplaySearch. The firm said the biggest contributor to the decline was a slowdown in shipments of LCD TVs, which fell year over year for the first time in the history of the category.
"Soft demand and cautious expectations about the upcoming year in many parts of the TV supply chain have led to a slowdown in shipments," said Paul Gagnon, director of North America TV Research for NPD DisplaySearch.
Gagnon said key component prices, such as LCD panels, are not expected to decline much in 2012, and many brands are concentrating on improving their bottom line.
LCD TV shipment share fell slightly from the fourth quarter because of a seasonal shift to emerging markets where CRT demand is higher, but is up four percentage points from a year ago, to 84.2%, the group said.
LCD TV is capturing market share at 40-inch and larger screen sizes because of a sharp decline in plasma TV demand. The average LCD TV screen size increased 5% year over year in the first quarter, passing 35 inches for the first time, with gains in both emerging and developed markets.
Plasma TV unit shipments continued to decline, falling 18% in the first quarter after an 8% year-over-year decline ih the fourth quarter.
"The popularity of plasma TV among consumers is waning, and a large majority of the recent shipment volume remains centered on low-priced 2D HD models, indicating consumers are buying on price when shopping for plasma," NPD DisplaySearch said.
3D shipment share continues to grow, albeit more slowly in recent quarters, rising to slightly more than 14% of total TV shipments and 16% of flat panel TV shipments. Demand for 3D in emerging regions is actually higher than in developed regions, with 16% of flat panel TV units shipped to emerging markets compared with 15% among developed regions.
Samsung was the No. 1 flat-panel TV brand, with revenue share remaining around 26%.