In what could be a chilling portent for those attempting to offer advanced services, global TV shipments have flat lined in Q12011 according to a quarterly analysis by DisplaySearch.

The screen technology specialist calculates that in the first quarter of the year, global TV shipments rose by only a single percentage, year on year, and this despite the continued roll out of HD across the world and the introduction of 3D in the leading economies.

The DisplaySearch Quarterly Global TV Shipment and Forecast Report shows that the disappointing data comes after a period of prolonged growth for the industry and that on a quarter by quarter basis, total shipments fell 29% 55.2 million units. The analyst noted that this was a sharper than normal Q4/Q1 differential/ It adds that excessive shipment volume in Q4’10, which rose 15% year on year, did not match sell-through growth and led to inventory carry-over from the holiday season in many regions. Particularly slow growth was seen in North America and Western Europe, and even China experienced a halting demand.

In terms of specific technologies, LCD TV shipments in Q1 2011 showed the weakest ever year on year growth on record, 9% year on year, to 44.3 million units. This was attributed partially to shipments growing 50% Y/Y in Q1’10 in preparation for the spike in business form the World Cup football tournament in June 2010. By contrast, plasma TV shipments posted growth for the sixth straight quarter in Q1 2011, up 6% year on year to 3.65 million units. That said, DisplaySearch warned that it had discerned a softening in growth for plasma especially in Europe and Japan. In addition it noted that most of the growth was for 720p models.

On a brighter note for those making a huge bet on the technology, 3D was found to have accounted for increasing shares of both shipments and revenues, 4% and 12% respectively, in Q1 2011. In North America 3D sets accounted for almost a fifth of total TV revenues and almost a quarter of revenues for screens larger than 40”. Yet growth was being driven by lower priced units that were based on lower frame rate LCD TVs. Whilst stimulating growth, some have questioned whether this would compromise quality.

“As the global TV market recovered from the depths of the Great Recession, TV brands and retailers eager to capture market share lowered prices and demand rebounded,” explained Hisakazu Torii, DisplaySearch Vice President of TV Research.

“Once the intense competitive pressure to win market share collided with falling prices, it became difficult for many brands to operate profitably, so new features were introduced that slowed price erosion. However, this may have also stifled demand in mature markets that had high flat panel TV penetration.”