LG slashes prices of its OLED TVs

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LG slashes prices of its OLED TVs

LG Electronics announced on Thursday that it would offer a discount of 500,000 won ($420) on its 55-inch ultra organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TVs, bringing their price down to 3.8 million won from Thursday through the end of this month.

The promotion drags the price of the high-end TV to one-third of its debut price four years ago. Curved ultra OLED TVs, which are more expensive than flat models, will sell at 4 million won for a 55-inch model and 7.9 million won for a 65-inch model.

“Consumer interest in premium TVs has grown immense, as they are increasingly attracted to ultra-high-definition resolution,” said Huh Jae-chul, marketing director at LG Electronics. “We will continue providing various consumer benefits to allow them to feel the value of premium TVs in a true sense.”

Behind LG’s decision to lower prices is the bitter reality that rival Samsung Electronics is threatening to undermine OLED TV sales with models called super-ultra-high-definition (SUHD) TVs.

Just three days earlier, Samsung announced it would release SUHD TVs in three different sizes: 65 inches, 78 inches and 88 inches. Their prices range from 7.89 million won to 33 million won.

A 55-inch SUHD TV from Samsung, released earlier this year, sells at just below 4 million won, a level similar to LG’s newly discounted model.

The two largest TV producers in the world use different materials for their next-generation TVs. Samsung went for cadmium-free quantum dots, otherwise known as nanocrystals, while LG uses organic substances.

Quantum dot materials are known to deliver richer and more accurate color reproduction and can be used on lower-cost liquid crystal display (LCD) manufacturing lines with just a few adjustments. By comparison, OLEDs boast super rich colors and deep blacks but are more difficult to produce.

Cost remains a big barrier for LG’s OLED TVs. Competing technologies are simply much cheaper. A 55-inch ultra-high-definition TV that uses an LCD panel - from Samsung as well as other lower-end brands - costs below 2 million won, and ordinary consumers say they can hardly distinguish the quality between it and an OLED.

It’s been four years since the two players chose different paths in their high-end TV lineup. Both showcased versions of OLED TVs at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2012. In May the same year, Samsung unveiled a 55-inch OLED TV and promised to begin mass-producing the model before the London Olympics in July, earlier than LG.

But the world’s No. 1 TV producer ended up withdrawing the plan to roll out OLED TVs, claiming they are not profitable enough and not well-suited to mass production. Ever since, LG has been spearheading OLED TV technology, and it has over 90 percent of the market.

“Although the latest OLED TVs from LG have gotten pretty cheap, they are still expensive,” an industry insider said. “It appears that the idea of OLED TVs being received by a wider demographic will take more time, given Samsung has made it clear it won’t produce OLED TVs.”

The high-end TV rivalry between Samsung and LG soldiers on. Samsung said last week it would skip OLED but is in the middle of a process to overcome technological limitations in developing a next-generation display using quantum dots, called quantum dot light-emitting diode, or QLED.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]

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