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Cable Technology Feature Article

August 26, 2014

LG Forges Ahead with Pricey OLED 4K TVs

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

LG has announced two new 4K UltraHD OLED TVs, which will come with the eye-popping starting price tag (News - Alert) of $11,765.

The initial 65-inch OLED TV model will ship starting September in South Korea, Europe and North America, with a 77-inch version following later this year, in time for the holidays.

OLED display technology is generally used in smaller form factors, like smartphones and tablets, and offers richer color saturation than LCD screens. That makes it ideal for 4K resolution, which true to its name quadruples the number of pixels typical with the HD format, to 4,096 x 2,160. Unfortunately, with typical displays, viewers need to be very close to the set to tell the difference from regular HD. OLED however uses a higher-contrast color palette than the industry-standard LCD panels, with deeper blacks that make the 4K resolution more visible from farther away.

The issue comes on the production line: there is a high rate of error for producing OLED displays in large sizes, which along with low volumes is keeping the price higher than it would be.

LG said it is committed to OLED however, and to rooting out the issues in order to bring prices more in line with mainstream consumers. The goal is for OLED TVs to overtake LCD TV sales "within a few years."

"As the next evolutionary step in display technology, OLED will play a major role in reshaping our industry," said Hyun-hwoi Ha, president and CEO of LG's Home Entertainment. “I feel confident when I say that 4K OLED is a bona fide game changer.

"OLED's benefits are obvious," he said. "There's no deterioration in picture quality and issues such as image blurring, distortion and color leakage in curved LED units are simply non-existent on curved OLED TVs."

The $11,765 is a steep number, but it’s worth noting that this is a reduction from last year’s OLED contenders in the marketplace. Samsung (News - Alert) and LG both rolled out curved 55-inch OLED TV sets that went for about $15,000 at the end of last year—and they weren’t even 4K models.

Market research firm iSuppli said that the headwinds against OLED will continue to mitigate over time; it forecasts that the OLED TV shipments will rise to 700,000 in 2015, to 2.2 million in 2016, 5.1 million in 2017 and 10 million in 2018.

That said, not everyone is bullish on OLED’s prospects: Samsung has not made any noise in the segment for months, and Sony recently iced its OLED line in favor of 4K UltraHD LCD sets instead—a market in which it dominates. Sony LCD sets accounted for more than 20 percent of the value of all 4K shipments in 2013, and 4K will account for close to half of the company’s total offerings in the large flat-panel TVs this year.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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