April 1, 2013 at 5:27 PM ET
A new study indicates that TV sales around the world are at record lows for a variety of reasons — but it's just a temporary slump as consumers and TV makers take a breather and get ready for the next big thing.
The study, collecting 2012's TV shipment data from all over the globe, was conducted by analytics firm IHS. It suggests that 2012 was the last year in a period of decline, after which things should bounce back.
In the last ten years, LCD-based flat-screen TVs have been bought to replace old CRT-based TVs, and as the price dropped, more people bought. But in the last few years, the price has more or less bottomed out, and so has the population of people who need to replace an old set. In consequence, the LCD market's growth has slowed — and finally, in 2012, it actually shrunk.
Japan in particular accounted for a ton of LCD TV sales, helped by a government initiative that subsidized energy-efficient sets, allowing people to buy them on the cheap. The initiative that came to an end in 2012, resulting in a stifling of demand: Japan sold 13.5 million fewer sets in 2012 than it did in 2011.
Europe and North America saw smaller declines due largely to economic factors, though sales in a few countries and regions — Germany, Africa, the Middle East — did continue to grow. The total sets tracked amounted to 238.5 million — significantly under 2011's 253.1 peak.
So, even though most people you know probably already have a flat-panel TV, the outlook is rosy, according to IHS. The next four years will see a return to growth as smart TVs mature and new technologies such as ultra high definition and OLED hit the market. By 2015, sales will return to the peak level they saw in 2011, and IHS speculates that by 2017, they'll top 270 million.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.