Vizio drops from No. 1 to No. 3 in HDTVs, with bleaker prospects ahead

Vizio TV
A Vizio 3-D HDTV model, which won one of Popular Science's "Best of What's New" awards last year.

Though 2011 was a rough year for all HDTV makers, Vizio had a worse year than most. Vizio, once number one in U.S. market share, back in the fourth quarter of 2010, felt the bottom fall out with a whopping 44 percent drop in volume by the same period a year later.

Meanwhile, during the same year-long span, Samsung, LG and Sharp were all rewarded by an increase in U.S. market share, with bumps of 17.9 percent, 35.2 percent and 60.09 percent respectively.

While Panasonic, Sharp, Samsung and LG all make their own panels and assemble their own HDTVs, Vizio makes nothing. They buy LCD panels and parts from outside companies and relies on third-party factories, mainly those owned and operated by the Taiwanese company AmTran, to assemble these parts into TVs. Vizio earns thin margins for its dealers and itself, relying on warehouse clubs, Target and Walmart for sales volume.

chart about TV sales

“Samsung triumphed in the price war that raged in the U.S. LCD market in the fourth quarter of 2011,” said Tom Morrod, senior analyst and head of TV Technology for IHS iSuppli. “The company was able to offer a range of price-competitive sets with a rich choice of features that U.S. consumers wanted. This allowed the company to outperform the competition during the all-important holiday selling season.”

The year ahead
We anticipate Vizio’s problems will continue this year. Out of around fifty HDTV models Vizio debuted in 2011, the company has chosen to carry over almost all of them for the 2012 model year. Samsung, LG and Panasonic revamped their respective lines with new features including enhanced Internet connectivity/apps, new thin styling, more LED and 3-D models, gesture and voice control (LG, Samsung), and even built-in HD cameras with face recognition (Samsung).

Sharp has found a new niche with its 60-inch and larger screens and continues to add features while offering very aggressive prices. Panasonic has finally entered the large screen LCD market with its own innovative 47- and 55-inch screens exhibiting deep blacks and outstanding viewing angles (review link). Newly introduced 2012 plasma models offer improved performance and new features as well.

With new features, sizes, svelte styling and other improvements from Samsung, LG, Panasonic and Sharp consumers won't have a hard time deciding whether they want the latest and greatest in HDTV or a carry-over from a failed 2011-model mix from Vizio. Consumers will once again vote with their wallets.

HD Guru has just begun to test the 2012s and plan to publish a number of reviews during the next few weeks. Have a question for the HD Guru? Send an email.

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