Report: Pioneer ending production of plasma panels

The company will outsource its plasma TV business, according to several reports.

Pioneer plans to let someone else make its plasma TV panels, according to several reports.

Reuters reported Tuesday that the company will cease production of its own plasma panels because that portion of its business continues to lose money. The company will still sell plasma sets, but plans to get its plasma panels from Matsushita, parent company of Panasonic, the Nikkei business daily reported. Panasonic is the biggest plasma TV vendor in the world, shipping nearly 40 percent of all plasma displays, while Pioneer ranks fifth, shipping just over 6 percent of plasmas worldwide in the fourth quarter of 2007, according to DisplaySearch.

Pioneer 70-inch plasma

So far, Pioneer isn't confirming or denying the reports ("Our headquarters are planning to publicly discuss our TV strategy at the end of this week, so we'll have no information until then," said a spokesperson), but it doesn't look good.

As CNET colleague and resident TV expert David Katzmaier put it, this news amounts to "a black day for black levels."

Pioneer has been repositioning its plasma business over the last few years as a premium brand, most recently pushing its "Kuro" technology, which emphasizes deep black levels and contrast, at CES 2007 and 2008. CNET Reviews ranked the 50-inch plasma from Pioneer as "the best it's ever tested" last year.

Though it appears Pioneer will continue to sell plasmas sets, if it's not making the panels, it seems unlikely that it will prolong the life of its Kuro technology. Pioneer is, however, already planning to buy liquid crystal display panels from Sharp in order to start selling LCD TVs. LCD sets have quickly become the fastest-growing TV technology, displacing traditional cathode-ray tube sets, as well as rear-projection and plasma.

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