March 18, 2013
| by Grant Clauser
Say it ain’t so… Panasonic stopping plasma TV production. The company is considering it. That’s the story from Reuters news service today, and I think it’s a terrible thing for home theater enthusiasts.
According to the news story, Panasonic is engaging in a three-year downsizing plan, beginning next fiscal year. Toward that end it’s selling off assets, including real estate. Reuters reports that the company will end plasma production at its Amagaskai plant next year and is already halting development on new plasma TVs.
This news comes just a few months after the company unveiled, at the Consumer Electronics Show, a new line of high-performance plasma TVs that many people, including myself, thought were among the best-looking video displays at the convention. Panasonic’s ZT line, which has yet to ship to retailers, offered plasma performance comparable to Pioneer’s venerated Kuro TVs. While plasma TVs lack some of the sex appeal of newer OLED technology, the ZT line would presumably be more affordable and thus more available to a wider audience.
For several years now, Panasonic has been carrying the banner of plasma TV, making them thinner, lighter, and better performing every year. In addition, on a dollar-per-inch basis, plasma is a better value than most LED LCD TVs. Last year I called Panasonic’s ST line of plasmas the best value in the TV market.
Both Samsung and LG also produce plasma, but for both of those companies, LCD has been their dominate display technology. Not so for Panasonic, though that company too offers LCD models.
The TV business has not been good to Panasonic lately. “Panasonic’s TV business, which generated sales of more than 1 trillion yen ($10.5 billion) during the peak in 2009/2010, is seen earning less than half of that amount in 2015/2016, the newspaper said without citing any sources,” says the Reuters article.
And here’s more bad news—according to Bloomberg, Panasonic’s stock rose the highest it’s been in six weeks immediately after the plasma news broke. Will Panasonic listen to its stockholders more than its customers? We’ll have to wait and see.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had audio training from Home Acoustics Alliance and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.