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Are Panasonic really getting out of the Plasma business this time?

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Mark Hodgkinson, Oct 9, 2013.


    1. Mark Hodgkinson

      Mark Hodgkinson Reviewer & News Writer

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      Yet more rumours suggesting the Kings of PDP are set to abdicate

      We'll forgive regular readers a sense of déjà vu as rumours once again surface that Panasonic is about to exit the plasma TV business. By our reckoning, this is at least the third time the story has been reported so, is it just another bit of internet hearsay or is there no smoke without fire and this time there's some substance to the speculation?

      Today's reports have come from sources, speaking with Reuters, said to be ‘familiar with the situation' and whilst that is an undoubtedly vague sounding association, equally this particular news agency does have a good record in getting the inside track on matters financial.

      These sources go as far as to say that Panasonic's plasma exit will come by the end of this financial year (March 2014), which would mean we would see no new PDP's from the Company at CES next January. To many enthusiasts, us included, this would be sad news, as we're still of the belief that plasma produces superior pictures to those found in LED/LCD TVs and it would really leave only Samsung as the credible standard bearers for the technology.

      Despite the superior quality of Panasonic's plasma TVs, their TV division has been losing money consistently for the last few years and posted losses of nearly £570 million in the last financial year alone.

      [​IMG]
      For the first time, this year, the 2013 range of LED/LCD TVs used outsourced panels, across the board, in an attempt to cut costs and Panasonic has already shifted the emphasis of its display business in to producing smaller panels, for the smartphone and tablet markets, so there's no doubt that they're not afraid to make major policy decisions for the good of the Company, as a whole.

      The advent of Ultra HD (4K) TVs and technology is also another factor that could mean that the story has some legs. Whilst it is possible to produce 4K plasma – and Panasonic already has, with a phenomenally expensive professional panel – there's zero chance of that ever becoming a domestic proposition, as it's both cheaper and easier to do with LCD/LED technology.

      The market looks to be shifting quicker than expected to panels with a 3840 x 2160 resolution and it's going to be diffculted to tout, say, the VT70 as a flagship product when, on the spec sheet, at least, it will be lacking against some of the competition.

      And, of course, OLED is just around the corner, if it's not already here. LG and Samsung already have OLED panels available at retail and we know Panasonic is readying themselves to launch their own. We saw a prototype 4K OLED from Panasonic as CES 2013, last January, and this is surely where the future of TV now lies for the enthusiast market.

      The problems with OLED are well known, of course, low manufacturing yields means very expensive TVs for the consumer but Panasonic's ‘RGB all-printing method' promises to be far more reliable than other means of production have been. It's just possible, that by 2014, they will have refined the process to the extent where they could launch an OLED TV for a price not that much higher than the current RRP of their flagship ZT65 (ZT60) plasma TV.

      [​IMG]
      The Company is already on record as saying they want to commercialise OLED by 2015, so why not start that in Vegas next January? If they could launch a product with a significant price advantage over the Korean manufacturers, it would be something of a masterstroke and could see them go on to regain some former glories.

      We've said for a long time now that having 3 (arguably 4) TV technologies competing for attention is not good for consumer understanding – and therefore trust – and perhaps Panasonic feels the same way so whilst its plasma range makes an exit, perhaps OLED will be brought to centre stage sooner than we thought. Certainly their LED/LCD TV range is not pulling up any trees, in performance or sales, so they need to pull a rabbit out of their hat if they want to compete with the other big boys.

      Of course, a lot of the above is speculative but then so is the original story from which it stems. In response to the Reuters piece, Panasonic issued a statement saying, “that it continued to consider various options for the plasma display panel business but that nothing had been decided yet,” so there's certainly nothing concrete to go on as yet.

      Whilst it will be a sad day when Panasonic does finally confirm its plasma exit – and that day will certainly come – we're withholding judgement on the validity of these rumours, for now, but the more we think about it, the more it makes sense that the departure is fairly imminent.

      Have your say in the comments below…

      Source: Reuters
       
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      Last edited: Oct 9, 2013
    2. crabby09

      crabby09 Active Member

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      Really hope they give themselves two more years.

      Think we could see a pretty much perfect panel by then.

      crabby
       
    3. rio1981

      rio1981 Well-known Member

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      If this is to be the case - and I personally hope not - I'll feel smugly vindicated at having finally taken the plunge and bought a GT60 a few days ago.
       
    4. lentrix

      lentrix Active Member

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      a sad day indeed - a far superior product as well .....
       
    5. Eltee

      Eltee Well-known Member

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      I really hope not. When you strip away all the guff it just looks better.
       
    6. Canti1982

      Canti1982 Active Member

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      I don't really see this as a bad thing as such, they were losing money on them and can now redirect that towards developing oled. The current lineup are pretty good so if like me you are planning on waiting a couple of generations of oled before jumping on board this could be a good option and one that you can buy today and for a good price.
       
    7. NickInWiltshire

      NickInWiltshire Well-known Member

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      Excellent analysis by Mark. It makes a lot of sense. If plasma cannot (affordably) support 4K and is also limited to use active 3D rather than the more family-friendly passive-3D then it is rapidly becoming a dead-end. They need to focus on what will actually sell rather than what might be considered technically superior.

      Personally I was disappointed that they have abandonned their own IPS alpha panels for their LCD TVs this year and dropped active-3D. But it is clearly all part of a wider goal to get back to making a profit from TV manufacture.

      If their OLED technology can be competitive and high quality then they will be solidly back in the game in a few years time.
       
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    8. vism

      vism Well-known Member

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      I wonder how long would it take for Panny to manufacture a year's worth of plasma screens. I can't see them going into next year with no plasma presence.

      However, we know they are going to start mass production of OLED in Q3 2014 so my thinking is this-

      Produce a pile of 70 series plasmas for the first 6 Months of 2014, spend a few Months refitting the factory and start OLED production from September.

      I've been saying for ages that OLED prices will drop like a stone once mass manufacture gets under way. My thinking was 2015 would be the year OLED could get close to plasma prices but it's now looking like it might be earlier than that.

      Happy days.
       
    9. HMHB

      HMHB Distinguished Member

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      Looks like I might have to bite the bullet and get a GT60. I was going to wait until the next range came out next year though.
       
    10. probedb

      probedb Banned

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      Until Panasonic actually make an announcement I'll ignore all speculation. I do wish I'd have waited and bought a GT60 instead of a GT50 though :/
       
    11. Nostromo71

      Nostromo71 Active Member

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      Personally, I'm not really bothered if they stop producing Plasma screens, well, as long as they focus their energies on OLED. I've just bought my first Panasonic Plasma, the cracking 55ST60, and I'll have it for around 5 years before I'll think about replacing it, so I'm hoping that in 5 years time, I'll be able to get a 55/60" 4K OLED Tv for around the same price I paid for the ST60.
       
    12. golden phoenix

      golden phoenix Well-known Member

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      wonder were that leaves people with 5 and 7 year guarantees on plasmas like me, should anything happen :laugh:
       
      Last edited: Oct 9, 2013
    13. Nostromo71

      Nostromo71 Active Member

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      The news story is being refuted on a rival tech site.

      In a statement issued to whathifi.com, Panasonic says:

      • The content of the [Reuters] report is not something that was announced by Panasonic.
      • The company is looking into a variety of options regarding the strategy for the PDP [plasma dsiplay] business, but nothing has been decided at this stage.
      • The company is looking into a variety of options regarding the utilization of the Amagasaki Factory, but nothing has been decided at this stage.
       
    14. Mark Hodgkinson

      Mark Hodgkinson Reviewer & News Writer

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      I don't think that goes against anything we've said.
       
    15. Nostromo71

      Nostromo71 Active Member

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      Sorry, Mark. I was meaning the source material, not your post.
       
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    16. Kalos Geros

      Kalos Geros Active Member

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      They may face another problem if they discontinue plasma production before they can replace it with OLED at similar prices...with them not being very strong in LCD TV market, I wonder what they'll be selling to people...their only chance is to get OLED out faast and at more or less affordable prices comparable to that of their current plasmas...but economy doesn't work that fast and I don't see it's possible within 2 years...I'm now very worried about Panasonic...they may vanish from the TV bussines just like Pioneer has...
       
    17. Mr.D

      Mr.D Well-known Member

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      I can understand this.

      Given the gullible nature of the so called enthusiasts who are currently slavering over 4k I can full well put myself in Panasonics shoes.

      Why should they produce a superior type of display in the marketplace if it damages their profit margins. And with the exception of a few enlightened few most people are eatinging up the emporers new clothes of 4k , LED backlights and OLed.

      You reap what you sow sheep!

      So stop acting all indignant , drop your pants and bend over , because big numbers sell , and there are no knowledgible enthusiasts left . They all just want the next thing to pimp in front of their friends and neighbours.

      And don't criticise Panasonic because they hung on and tried to provide genuinely well designed screens for a reasonable price.

      Go and attack Sony , Samsung , LG and the others instead .

      5 years from now you'll write a very contrite homage to the good old days of well built plasma ; once in a blue moon , when you are not too busy peddling the lastest meaningless rubbish for some big name electronics firm.

      Go on delete the post , 2 years from now you'll be cosying up to WhatHifi Stuart.

      Enjoy
       
    18. golden phoenix

      golden phoenix Well-known Member

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      well im very very happy with my ZT plasma...and its getting ISF'D (if you didnt notice in my sig) next week. i am interested in OLED down the line, but there is no way in hell panasonic can bring a 4K OLED to the mainstream market in 2 years, these things take time, sure they can get a product out but also the tech is not up to scratch yet anyway from what i have read. and with the economy the way it is, it will be a niche product, for quite some time. hell my ZT is considered a niche product lol.
       
    19. mbmapit

      mbmapit Active Member

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      I can't help but think that there wouldn't be a problem if they sold their screens cheaper. The masses walk in to a shop and see an LCD/LED for £1000 but right next to it is a £3000 Panasonic. Now, we all know they're better but I'm willing to bet they have massive margins. I'd love to see them put their plasma efforts in to LED/OLED but not if that means double the price.
       
    20. gringottsdirect

      gringottsdirect Active Member

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    21. golden phoenix

      golden phoenix Well-known Member

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      if it all rings true..i will have the best and last plasma of all time by panasonic or any other manufacturer for that matter, no wonder they threw the kitchen sink at the ZT !
       
    22. Nostromo71

      Nostromo71 Active Member

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    23. ertoil

      ertoil Active Member

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      end of a Japanese era of superiority and quality...really sad , still have Trinitrons in home:jp::(

      They forgot company sales to offer us ultimate quality with the GT60 , VT50-60 ,ZT60
       
      Last edited: Oct 9, 2013
    24. vism

      vism Well-known Member

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      Did they?
       
    25. golden phoenix

      golden phoenix Well-known Member

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      :laugh: yes! ive got the u bend to prove it!
       
    26. Har-One

      Har-One Well-known Member

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      What I cannot understand is why you feel the need to say that people buying 4K are gullible or sheep.

      All manufacturers, including Panasonic, are producing 4K sets. I guess that people who are buying 4K TVs know the limitations however they are still good 1080 TVs.

      The fact that 4K came into the market has nothing to do with the end of plasma. The main reason is that as a business is becoming infeasible. They cannot produce at a loss for ever and ever.

      Technology moves on all the time and those that cannot evolve go extinct. There must be a reason we are not using CRT, black and white or silent movies.

      This is not only the situation with Panny plasmas. Loewe, B&O are also in problems because they cannot be making losses indefinitely.

      I am sorry that they are going but as said before. The King is dead, long live the King.
       
    27. soupdragon

      soupdragon Well-known Member

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      Did you get out of the wrong side of bed yesterday Mr.D? :D
       
    28. Scooby2000

      Scooby2000 Distinguished Member

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      Well at the last CES though cagey they said that plasma R&D had stopped but they will still believed plasma was better and they would still be supporting it(summit like that) its in one of our interview videos.

      This to me pointed to a reduction but not complete withdrawal, this years line was reduced significantly and I think in 2014 there will may well be two plasma models from Panasonic, a top end maybe equivalent to this years ZT and a mid range at the level of this years GT or VT. No really significant changes other than design tweaks and a few technical tweaks.

      If R&D was stopped last year would they have had time to implement everything? Thats of course assuming they hadn't already stopped R&D before.

      So I think there will be a limited range of maybe ST and VT(equivalent of this years GT or VT and ZT) Then the new flagship ZT will be an OLED. Anything below 50" will be LCD with maybe a large 4K LCD.

      Then *the* next year there may be one plasma(with previous years tech) and then the mid and top end sets(VT and ZT) will be OLED, with the rest of the range being a limited run of LCD.

      Thats how I see it, but then I know jack the same as everyone else.
       
      Last edited: Oct 11, 2013
    29. NickInWiltshire

      NickInWiltshire Well-known Member

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      The problem is that the market share for plasma has gone from 40% in 2010 to 6% in 2012 and 2.5% in 2013. In other words it has fallen off a cliff. They already have only a single plasma factory left, so if they taper the plasma line down over another two years they will be running the factory at a fraction of its capacity - if they aren't already. So with the fixed costs of the factory, every plasma TV they sell will end up costing them money. At that point it becomes cheaper to close the factory, and it sounds as if that point has arrived.

      It is also hard to position a premium 1080 plasma product up against 4K LCD TVs with similar price tags. OLED is in an even higher price bracket at the moment, but it is clearly going to get cheaper and head for the same segment of the market.

      The only argument that I can see for continuing with any plasma for the next year or two would be to maintain a reputation for premium flagship TVs if they can't get an OLED set out quickly enough to take the ZT's place at the top.
       
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    30. Steve_B

      Steve_B Active Member

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      Personally I find it sad, but then Pioneer pulled out years ago and they had the best plasma ever IMHO... I still have a 500A and 506 and have no desire to replace them. I look at all the new sets and nothing comes close to the 500A with the exception of the x60 range (4K accepted), the 506 still offers a better image than the majority of LED\LCD... .

      I never got the fascination with false 3D, pure marketing hype and now 4K... movies look awesome; though for standard TV...not convinced. I am sure it is going to be more than a few years for the likes of UK broadcasters be broadcasting purely in 4K... upscaling from dross SD to 4K... ROFL.

      Call me cynical but the drive to 4K is from the movie studios, so they can sell you the movie you bought on LD, then DVD then Bluray... again... Plus also having even more control over when and where you watch it - ie every time you stream it - cher-ching :eek:

      4K projectors - perfect, 1080p for TV - ideal... I just hope there will be high end quality 1080P OLED panels.

      -Steve
       
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      Last edited: Oct 11, 2013

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