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The Upside Potential for High Definition OLED TVs

An OLED (organic light-emitting diode) is a semiconductor where the emissive electroluminescent layer is a film of organic compound which emits light in response to an electric current. OLEDs are now being used to create digital television screens.

​However, OLED TVs are expected to comprise less than 1 percent of flat panel TV sales through at least 2013, reaching 9 percent of the shipped units by 2017.

In contrast, LED/LCD TVs, which often offer thinner form factors and less power consumption over traditional (CCFL) LCD TVs, are expected to grow from 35 percent of the market in 2011 to 75 percent in 2017.

This year OLED TVs from Samsung and LG are expected to cost well over $5,000 (likely closer to $10,000) at sizes less than 60” -- Sony and Panasonic are partnering to release larger screen OLED TVs in 2013.

At these relatively high prices consumers are challenged with selecting picture quality and form factor over size -- consider that an equivalent sized LED TV costs thousands less. As an example, Sharp’s 80” LED TV can be had for prices closer to $4,000.

"Primary research conducted in the U.S. market continues to suggest most consumers place price and screen size above all other factors," says Sam Rosen, practice director at ABI Research.

While display technology is cited as very important as well, the prices OLED TVs are expected to command, at least through 2013, will make it a difficult sell for most mainstream consumers.

The 2012 selection of OLED TVs are not the first, as Sony introduced much smaller screens in the past, but price and screen size again conspired to make the market for OLED TVs rather limited.

Scale will eventually bring prices down, but with LED TVs supporting form factors approaching the svelteness of OLED TVs many consumers may still opt for the less expensive alternative, limiting the rate at which scale is reached.

Picture quality is also highlighted as a key benefit for OLED screens, but consumer behavior suggests this might not engender as much perceived value as some might presuppose.

Higher contrast ratios and more vibrant colors while nice, will continue to lose out to screen size and price for those consumers who embrace and fully enjoy streaming video, think Blu-ray picture is good, but still enjoy DVD.

Today's OLED TVs -- at this stage of their development -- will likely be more of a status symbol or a strong appreciation of form factor by the early adopters, rather than their actual HD or UHD video quality.

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