Is This the Beginning of the End for LCD Video Walls?

Samsung LCD video wall at InfoComm 2018

A Samsung LCD video wall at InfoComm 2018.

By Graham Cooke
Futuresource Consulting

Last week, Samsung Displays (DID) announced that it is to end production of LCD video wall displays on July 31, 2020.

As one of the largest panel providers in the industry, Samsung DID’s decision to exit LCD video wall panel production has generated shockwaves, but it also presents significant opportunities for its former competitors. LCD panel manufacturing is growing, with recent entrants like BOE and CSOT boasting capacity that could easily accommodate the orders dropped by Samsung DID. Additionally, established panel providers like LG Display, AUO and Innolux could also benefit.

One of the most significant losses associated with Samsung DID’s exit will be the 46″ screen size category (which attributes to 9.7% of global VW shipments), as most of the panel providers listed above focus on 47″ or 49″ product. Production will therefore need to be switched to an alternative 46″ supplier, such as AUO or BOE, in a relatively short time period in order to prevent stock shortages.

Samsung Electronics, the number one LCD video wall vendor (having shipped 112,000 units in 2019), was arguably Samsung DID’s leading customer. Samsung Electronics has made no secret that it believes NPP LED is the future of displays, with a significant focus on, and investment in, NPP LED lines and products. Samsung Electronics is not expected to discontinue LCD video wall panels in the short term, particularly as its shipments were up 7% in 2019.
It is an established fact that NPP LED is challenging LCD in some key verticals (such as corporate lobbies, retail and transportation). Many end users prefer the seamless, vibrant images LED walls can offer. However, there is still a considerable price delta for LED products compared to LCD, and, in many cases, LED is too costly.

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Another key factor in the longevity of LCD over NPP LED is resolution. As the majority of LCD video wall panels are 1080p, they are easily scalable to 4K with only a 2×2 wall — a very efficient way of producing higher resolution images. For NPP LED to achieve a 4K wall, it either needs to have very large dimensions (often impossible in many spaces) or utilize a very fine pixel pitch, which again carries a significant cost implication.

Does a major panel provider exiting the market signal the end of LCD video wall? No — in 2019, the LCD video wall market closed at 1.53 million units ($4.7 billion) or 25% of all professional LCD display volumes. The LCD video wall market is expected to fall over the next four to five years due to high penetration rates and the aforementioned impact of LED. It is forecast to close in 2024 at 1.48 million units ($3.5 billion). Samsung DID’s withdrawal could accelerate this rate of decline, as it may increase its investment in LED technology, which will drive down costs — especially on tighter pixel-pitches — thus significantly reducing the price premium over LCD panels.

Samsung DID’s announcement has created further upheaval in an industry grappling with the impact of COVID-19, but it is remarkably resilient. Futuresource is confident that vendors will regroup and rapidly find alternative suppliers. The longer-term implications are potentially more troubling as panel providers may return to see Samsung DID as a direct competitor, albeit with a different technology.