China continued to be the world's largest market for televisions in the first quarter, retaining first place among eight distinct regions as it accounted for nearly one-quarter of all TV shipments during the period, according to a Television Market Tracker report from information and analytics provider IHS.
With 12.1 million television units shipped into the country from January to March, China held 24 percent of the global TV space, ahead of the erstwhile powerhouse markets of Western Europe and North America-the territories in second and third place, respectively. China even managed to enlarge its share from 21 percent in the fourth quarter, when it was also the top region, even as overall TV shipments to the country fell between the two quarters, as they did for all other territories.
Overall, worldwide TV shipments in the first quarter amounted to 50.6 million units. That number is down not only from 75.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2012 but is also a retreat from the 51.4 million figure posted a year ago in the first quarter of 2012.
The first quarter of every year for the TV market has been historically on par with the second quarter-both times are marked by relatively slow movement. But with an increasingly extreme shift in Western Europe and North America alike toward holiday sales in the fourth quarter, the first quarter now tends to have the smallest shipment totals.
The liquid-crystal display (LCD) segment continued to make up the largest part of the TV business worldwide, ahead of a declining plasma sector and a near-moribund market for bulky analog Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) sets. Shipments of LCD TVs actually increased on a year-by-year basis to 45.4 million units, up from 43.8 million units in the first quarter of 2012. Plasma TV shipments, meanwhile, are down an annual 22 percent to 2.4 million units, while CRT TV shipments-still being sent to parts of Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa-are off by a steep 39 percent to 2.8 million units.
China was also the second-largest TV manufacturer after South Korea, and four Chinese brands scored in the Top 10 as among those with the highest shipments in the first quarter. Chinese maker TCL was third after No. 1 Samsung and second-place LG, but ahead of Toshiba and Sony. At the same time, Chinese manufacturers Hisense and Skyworth were at No. 6 and No. 7, respectively, ahead of Sharp. For its part, ninth-ranked Konka was ahead of Philips.
China's growing pre-eminence has come at the expense of North America and Western Europe, where TV sales are slowing because the markets are mature. In contrast, large swaths of the Chinese population are still upgrading from old CRTs or undertaking aggressive replacement of first-generation digital TVs, frequently with the help of subsidies from a government keen to encourage a homegrown TV manufacturing industry. In particular, subsidies were credited for some of the growth this quarter in China TV shipments, up 25 percent from the same time last year, as people rushed to take advantage before the subsidies expired in May.
China was not the only global territory to grow on a yearly basis during the first quarter. Also increasing their share of market were Latin America and the collective Middle East-Africa region.
In contrast, the markets declining annually during the quarter alongside Western Europe and North America were Asia-Pacific, Japan and Eastern Europe.