A combination of company announcements, seemingly reliable reporting, and just plain rumors make it reasonable to believe that OLED Television is finally getting its second wind.
The reliable reporting centers on LG Display increasing its panel production, with LG Electronics modestly decreasing some set prices. The rumors center on Samsung re-entering the OLED-TV business, but the rumors are well founded — and I have recently received confirmation from a very reliable industry source. Let’s see if we can sort through some of this.
LG Display (LGD) CEO Han Sang-Beom has said his company plans to ship 600,00 TV-sized OLED panels in 2015, going up to 1.5 million in 2016. LGD estimates the global high-end TV market at 4 million sets, which means that if LGD actually makes and sells those 1.5 million panels next year, OLED-TV will be grabbing more than a third of the high-end market. Although that sounds like an excess of enthusiasm, at least a portion of the enthusiasm has a solid foundation.
LGD has increased the capacity at its Gen 8 fab to 14,000 substrates per month, which translates to the 600,000 panels projected for 2015. To support the predicted 1.5 million sets in 2016, input capacity will grow to 34,000 substrates per month by the end of 2015.
An LG representative recently told CNet that LG can’t meet the demand for OLED TVs and “cannot build OLED TVs fast enough.”
LG seems focused on maintaining its own OLED-TVs as premium products, with the emphasis on 4K. A carryover flat, FHD 55-inch model is selling for $1999, while the new curved, 4K 55-inch will carry an MSRP of $5499. My personal favorite of the OLED-TV screens LGD showed in their suite at CES was a lovely flat 4K 55-inch. No set price was given, but $3500 to $4000 would be a good guess.
Until the recent confirmation, the stories concerning Samsung seemed more speculative. But even then, there was no question that Samsung is separating its LCD and OLED business (which it merged in 2012). The move was seen as a positive for the re-birth of large-screen OLED at Samsung, since the OLED team will now be able to manage its own affairs without keeping an eye on what is good for the much larger LCD segment. (Samsung’s OLED group could not have been happy to see the Samsung exhibit at CES extolling quantum-dot-enchanced LCD-TV as superior to OLED-TV.)
It was shortly before Samsung’s announcement of the LCD/OLED split that the rumors of the company planning to resume OLED-TV manufacturing erupted. The rumors went on to predict that when Samsung does re-enter the market, it would do so using a version of the Kodak-LG color-by-white technology used by LG rather than its own RGB technology that has been so successful in small and medium displays.
Both ends of this rumor have now been confirmed. Samsung is developing both IGZO backplanes and color-by-white OLED front planes, and does not seem at all deterred that LG’s purchase of the Kodak IP and its own subsequent patent activity give them a very strong patent portfolio for the color-by-white approach.
But Samsung’s interest in color-by-white OLED is nothing new. At the Nomura Pan-Asia Technology Conference in Hong Kong in May of 2011, it was revealed that Samsung was planning that its first Gen 8 OLED fab would use RGB OLED technology, but that subsequent Gen 8 fabs to use color-by-white. And there have been other indications that senior Samsung display execs believe color-by-white with oxide backplanes represent the future of large-screen OLED.
So, that Samsung is committing itself to color-by-white for its return to OLED-TV manufacturing should not surprise observant industry watchers. And now we know that Samsung is returning.
Posted by Ken Werner, May 14, 2015 1:04 PM
About Ken WernerKenneth I. Werner is the founder and Principal of Nutmeg Consultants, which specializes in the display industry, display technology, display manufacturing, and display applications. He serves as Marketing Consultant for Tannas Electronic Displays (Orange, California) and Senior Analyst for Insight Media. He is a founding co-editor of and regular contributor to Display Daily, and is a regular contributor to HDTVexpert.com and HDTV Magazine. He was the Editor of Information Display Magazine from 1987 to 2005.