Samsung’s earnings report for the second quarter 2018 reveals that revenue from TV sales continue to slide as the company’s “QLED” LCD TVs suffer in the competition against OLED TVs. Samsung is hoping that 8K and microLED will reverse the trend.
Samsung: From 3D to QLED TVs
Samsung remains the biggest TV maker in the world and the TV market as a whole has lost some momentum but the once so dominant Korean TV maker continues to see its TV sales decline following a series of missteps.
If you have been observing Samsung’s efforts in recent years, you may remember “the next big things” that came and went. The company has been betting big on trends such as 3D TVs (2010), curved TVs (2013), “SUHD” (2015), and more recently “QLED” (2017). The jury is still out on QLED – a marketing term for modern LCD TVs – but the other inventions failed to impress consumers.
Evidence is now emerging that “QLED” LCD TVs may be failing, too. Korean media outlets have reported that Samsung’s share of the premium TV segment has dropped from over 55% to less than 15%, while analyst company IHS Markit has found that sales of OLED TVs have surpassed those of QLED LCD TVs.
The last two quarters have been the worst quarters for Samsung’s TV division (Visual Display Business) in recent times. Revenue has dropped below 6 trillion Won (approx. $5.35b) in each quarter even as Samsung has introduced models with full array local dimming that enthusiasts have been longing for.
Historically, the company has seen a boost in TV sales in the second quarter of the year due to the introduction of a new TV line-up. However, in 2017, TV sales were down after Samsung introduced the world to its “QLED” TVs. This year, sales are slightly above flat in the second quarter. So far for 2018, Samsung has been generating less revenue from TV sales than in the first half of 2017, despite the World Cup driving an uptick in TV sales across the industry.
To be clear, Samsung’s Visual Display Business also includes related TV products such as set-top boxes but the bulk of the revenue comes from TVs.
It is not all bad news for Samsung. The company points out that it managed to improve its profit margin from selling TV in the second quarter of 2018, which it attributes to “sales of premium products such as UHD/ultra-largesized TVs and strong sales of new QLED models”. So, revenue from TV sales continues to slide but Samsung is turning a somewhat higher profit from those TV sales. This is not uncommon in the second quarter when new models are introduced at high starting prices so the question becomes how it develops over the coming quarters.
LG, hometown rival and the leading OLED TV maker, is one of Samsung’s main competitors in TVs. LG Electronics does not break out TV sales in its earnings reports but the company recently reported record profits in its Home Entertainment division, and has commented that the performance is due to “strong sales of premium products such as OLED TVs”.
8K and microLED in second half of 2018
To reverse its fortunes, Samsung is planning to focus more on the premium segment. The company confirmed that it will launch its first 8K TV as well as microLED TV in the second half of 2018.
- “Focus on solidifying leadership in the premium market by launching innovative products such as 8K / Micro LED TVs and expanding marketing for QLED / ultra-large-sized TVs (75-inch and up),” the company’s earnings report said in reference to the outlook for the second half of 2018.
There are conflicting reports regarding Samsung’s timeline for the launch of its first microLED TV. At CES in January 2018, the company unveiled 146-inch ‘The Wall’ based on microLED display technology and promised to bring it to the consumer market later in the year. However, recent reports out of Korea say that Samsung will launch ‘The Wall Luxury’ for the home in 2019. The company will start selling a commercial version this month.
We expect to hear more about Samsung’s plans for 8K and microLED at the IFA show in Berlin later this month.