Vizio to Stop Selling Plasma TVs

vizio to exit plasma hdtv business
First Pioneer, now Vizio. As a flat-screen TV technology, plasma's days appear numbered.

Vizio, the Southern California-based upstart that's built a successful business selling relatively inexpensive HDTVs in warehouse stores such as Costco and Sam's Club, will stop selling plasma TVs and focus on LCD sets. The news is the second blow this week for plasma proponents. Pioneer, maker of ultra-pricey plasma sets for home theater aficionados, earlier announced that it's leaving the TV business altogether.

As The New York Times points out, the departure of Pioneer and Vizio leaves just three major players in the U.S. plasma TV market: LG, Panasonic, and Samsung. Given consumers' overwhelming preference for LCD models, Vizio's decision to ditch plasma isn't too surprising. According to industry researcher Display Search, LCD outsells plasma by a 7 to 1 margin. And since Vizio's current product lineup on its website shows just 5 plasma versus 20 LCD models, the change shouldn't prove too jarring for its customers.

Despite consumers' preference for LCD, many videophiles believe that plasma offers the superior picture, particularly for home theater settings. Plasma sets cost less than comparably-sized LCD models too. Then again, LCD displays are brighter are often work better in light-filled family rooms.

But don't write off plasma just yet. Shipments of plasma TVs actually rose 28 percent during the 4th quarter of 2008 (the holiday shopping season), and were up 10 percent for the entire year, according to Display Search. By comparison, LCD shipments in the 2008 holiday quarter actually fell 2% versus the same period in 2007.

Lower prices apparently have a lot to do with plasma's resilience in a poor economy. Display Search reports that plasma TV shipments were likely "less impacted by increased consumer price sensitivity." If that's the case, plasma may have a couple good years left.

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