Sony, Panasonic to cooperate on OLED televisions

TOKYO Mon Jun 25, 2012 4:00am EDT

Sony and Panasonic TV sets are displayed at an electronic shop in Tokyo June 22, 2012. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Sony and Panasonic TV sets are displayed at an electronic shop in Tokyo June 22, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Rival Japanese television makers Sony Corp and Panasonic Corp said Monday they will cooperate to make OLED (organic light emitting diode) sets as they battle Korean rivals Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics for pole position in the next-generation TV market.

The race to garner a lead in OLED, widely touted as the successor to liquid-crystal displays, will depend on which company is able to mass produce screens at a price that will attract consumers to the new technology.

Sony and Panasonic said in a statement they will develop technologies to fabricate the screens and aim to establish a mass-production process in 2013.

Both Samsung and LG Electronics have displayed 55-inch OLED prototypes, with the sets expected to go on sale this year at a rumored price tag of as much as $10,000, or about four times the cost of an equivalent LCD model.

An executive at LG Display, a flat-screen maker 38 percent owned by LG Electronics, told Reuters earlier an internal study indicated consumers would start buying OLED TVs once the price falls to 1.3 to 1.4 times that of an LCD set.

Shipments of OLED TVs may reach 2.1 million sets in 2015 from just 34,000 this year, according to research firm IHS Inc.

Hammered by their Korean competitors in LCD TVs, Sony and Panasonic stand a better chance of competing in the next generation market by combining their OLED technologies and development budgets. Losses on TVs at Sony have mounted to around $12 billion in the past decade.

Sony pioneered OLED technology, which boast sharper images and do not need backlighting, selling the world's first OLED TV in 2007. It halted production of the $2,000 screens three years later amid the post-Lehman global downturn. Sony still makes OLED screens costing as much as $26,000 for high-end customers.

Panasonic plans to invest about 30 billion yen ($373 million) in its Himeji plant in western Japan for a test production line of OLED panels, an industry source told Reuters last month.

Shares in Sony, which makes Bravia TVs, and Panasonic, which sells TVs under the Viera brand, fell in Tokyo on Monday. Sony dipped 2.4 percent with Panasonic down 0.6 percent.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Matt Driskill)

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