At CES 2015 last week, LG Electronics (NASDAQOTH:LGEAF) unveiled an ambitious line of seven new OLED televisions with at least 4K resolution. These slick new TVs range in size from 55 to 77 inches, and come in curved, flat, and flexible form factors.
But for all the hype given to LG's curved and flexible OLED televisions, by far the most notable are its new flat models, which have been largely absent so far in LG's commercial repertoire.
Forget the curve (for now)
Consider this: The highest end model in LG's line is the 77EG9900, a 77-inch flexible beauty that can switch between curved and flat at the touch of a button -- but only if you don't mind shelling out over $38,000 for the privilege, according to a leaked price sheet from Danish tech site FlatPanels.dk (and that's adjusting, by the way, for the country's 25% value-added tax on such goods).
For those of you unfamiliar, that flexibility is one of several novel features enabled by Universal Display Corporation's (NASDAQ:OLED) patented OLED technology, which it licenses to LG Electronics' display maker LG Display (NYSE:LPL). OLED pixels also emit their own light and can be individually switched on and off, making it possible to display the deepest blacks to achieve infinite contrast ratios. Their self-emitting nature also means OLED televisions don't require backlights, so can be made thinner and more energy efficient than LCD TVs.
With that in mind, the suggested retail prices for the static curved 55-inch and 65-inch models will likely start around $4,000 and $7,120, respectively. By comparison, LG's current 55-inch curved model can now be found at brick-and-mortar Best Buy locations for roughly $3,500 -- though determined buyers can also find it for as low as $2,999 online. These are much more manageable numbers than the flexible model, but still far too expensive even when placed alongside higher-end LCD competitors.
And further complicating the comparison -- however great the picture -- is the fact most cost-conscious consumers aren't yet sold on the merits of owning a curved television.
Flat is still in
That brings us to LG's all-important flat OLED TVs.
To be sure, the MSRPs for the new flat 55-inch and 65-inch models will start at roughly $3,800 and $6,560, respectively, or around $200 to $500 less than their curved counterparts. That said, keep in mind LG Display has already reduced the price of its current 55-inch curved model by more than 75% since it first debuted at $15,000 on BestBuy.com in August, 2013. For that, we can thank to a combination of steadily increasing production capacity and manufacturing efficiency improvements.
Moreover, LG Display has already outlined plans for reducing the price of OLED TVs to a roughly 10% premium to competing LCDs, including but not limited to a massive new gen-8 OLED TV facility in Paju, South Korea, in which it invested almost $790 million to ramp by the end of 2014. Between the initial ramp of that facility and additional capacity LG Display will add throughout the year, the company will have more than tripled its OLED television production capacity by the end of 2015.
This, in turn, will undoubtedly allow LG Display to continue lowering prices of its OLED televisions until it reaches or beats its target to maximize OLED televisions' value proposition. Adding lower-cost flat OLED TVs to the mix should only further reduce the time it takes for that to happen.
In the end, LG has made no secret of its belief that OLED TV is the future. But if all goes as planned with LG's new flat OLED TVs in 2015, that future could arrive much sooner than many investors and consumers expect.