If ever there was a sign of a worldwide economic slowdown, it might be how people spent their money on that most popular of mediums, television. According to market research firm DisplaySearch, worldwide sales of flat panel television fell for the first time ever during the fourth quarter of 2008—which, being the end of year holiday season, one might assume to be a period of strong sales. Instead, DisplaySearch found that global TV shipments fell more than 5 percent year-on-year to 57.7 million units, marking the first year-on-year decline in more than two years. Revenues from television sales fell by 7 percent to just over $30 billion.
Overall, sales of flat panel televisions fared slightly better than the overall TV market, falling just 3 percent year-on-year. Nonetheless, that loss marks the first time flat-panel sales have ever posted a year-on-year decline. Worldwide, flat panel TVs accounted for 66 percent of all television sales in the fourth quarter of 2008 as users upgraded from CRTs to LCD displays, particularly at sizes of 40 inches and under. However, the share of the flat-panel market that can handle 1080p display exceeded 20 percent of all units sold for the first time ever. Over 10 percent of all LCD TVs sold also had refresh rates of 120 Hz or higher.
As a whole, 2008 was still a banner year for flat panel TVs, with LCD TV shipments up 33 percent year-on-year compared to 2007 to 105 million units. Those numbers also mark the first time LCD TV sales have exceeded CRT TV sales, considering calendar years as a whole.