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Samsung regains TV lead; Vizio back to No. 2

Another shift in the North American TV market this quarter as Samsung and Sony regain their footing.

Samsung FP-T94 series
Samsung FP-T94 series Samsung

A sense of order has been restored to the North American TV market this quarter.

A few months after newcomer Vizio stunned the flat-panel television industry by ranking No. 1 in market share for the second quarter of 2007, the old stalwarts have reclaimed their positions. Samsung moved back to No. 1 in overall flat-panel shipments with 11.8 percent of the total market, according to DisplaySearch. Vizio fell to No. 2 with a 10.2-percent share, down from 12 percent the previous quarter. The rest of the list includes Sharp at 10 percent, Sony at 8.6, and Funai (which makes the Sylvania brand) at a 7.2 percent share.

Samsung was able to regain its position because it has a strong presence in both the liquid crystal display (LCD) and plasma markets. Vizio is ranked No. 2 in LCD, but not in the top five of plasma vendors. Another key difference is Samsung sells mostly through national retailers, while Vizio's products have been popular in club stores. That's important because club stores tend to sell TVs consistently all year long, while major retailers see seasonal spikes in sales, usually related to holidays and televised sporting events.

"That national chains typically would gain share in the holiday season so you'll see a lot of sell in in the third quarter," said Ross Young, president of DisplaySearch, an industry analysis firm that tracks TV shipments.

It was suspected by some that Vizio's bump last quarter may have been a one-time thing. The company told News.com earlier this month that both Costco and Sam's Club ordered higher-than-normal shipments from the TV maker.

But Vizio's drop in market share is more likely due to the fact that Samsung also sells more TVs with 1080p resolution, a category that's becoming very popular and more affordable, said Young. Vizio is more heavily invested in 720p, he noted.

Sony also made a much better showing in the third quarter. After a disastrous second quarter in which it fell from third to sixth place among TV vendors, the Japanese electronics giant is back with strongest overall growth (up 108 percent from the previous quarter) of any TV maker. That brings it to 8.6-percent market share, good enough for fourth place.

The key to Sony's success this time around was a bevy of new products and better targeted TV lines, including those made especially for Wal-Mart and Target, said Young.

"They were really aggressive with new products," said Young. Besides moving toward selling more large LCD TVs and fewer rear-projection sets, Sony also introduced entry level 52-inch set that "did really well" throughout the quarter, he added.

But what does this all mean for the upcoming holiday shopping season? According to DisplaySearch, the best deals will likely come from Sharp in LCD sets between 19 and 26 inches, Vizio in the 32- and 37-inch categories, and on TVs from most brands between 32 and 42 inches.