Are we nearing the end for plasma TVs? That's the question we're asking today after Panasonic reportedly announced that it would stop making and selling plasma sets. (We've contacted Panasonic for confirmation and to answer a few questions, and we'll update this post when we hear back.)
Though not exactly a surprise—reports of the company's exit surfaced earlier this month—many TV fans are disappointed, as proponents of not only plasma TV in general but of Panasonic's models specifically, which have typically ranked near the top of our TV Ratings in all size categories 42 inches and larger. In fact, eight of the top 10 TVs in our Ratings of TVs 60 inches or larger are plasma models, and five are from Panasonic. The Panasonic ZT60-series sets were probably the best overall TV we tested this year, with the exception of the Samsung KN55S9C OLED TV.
In a statement issued in Japan, Panasonic said it would stop making plasma panels in December of this year, and it will stop selling plasma TVs in March 2014. The company's approach had been to focus on plasma TVs in larger screen sizes, and LCD TVs for smaller and medium-sized sets. But the company said that the rapid develpment of larger-sized LCD TVs and severe price competition, compounded by flagging demand for plasma, forced it to make the decision for business reasons.
According to the market-research firm DisplaySearch, plasmas accounted for just 6 percent of overall TV sales worldwide, compared with 87 percent for LCDs.
With Panasonic's exit, that leaves only LG Electronics and Samsung as major brands selling plasma TVs—and LG's hold seems tenuous, given that this year it reduced its plasma TV lineup to a single series. However, in response to our question, LG said it's already previewed its 2014 line for key retailers and it plans to introduce new LG plasma HDTVs at CES in January. We've also reached Samsung for comment, and we'll update this report if we hear back. Periodically some secondary brands may offer a plasma TV series, but typically one of the major brands is the source of the plasma panels they use.