The world's No. 1 and No. 2 flat-screen TV makers share prestige as lynchpins of the South Korean economy. But an increasingly bitter rivalry between Samsung Electronics and the LG Group has descended into mud-slinging amid a bragging contest over which company has the best 3D technology.
Their war of words took a nasty turn this week – playing out in the national press as officials traded barbs that some saw as childish.
Yet with analysts projecting explosive growth in the emerging 3D TV market over the next few years, both companies see this as a crucial battlefield, and the current dispute could be indicative for the future. The shadows of Japanese giants Sony and Panasonic, too, loom large in the 3D marketplace.
On Tuesday, a "high-ranking" Samsung official reportedly called LG engineers "stupid," saying claims over the merits of their technology were "unacceptable." In response, LG said Samsung had shown it was "losing it" by opting to volley abusive remarks at a competitor.
And Thursday, LG staged a press conference to announce it was in talks with Sony about providing its 3D TV panels to the Japanese maker – seen as a way for LG to court allies in the growing 3D war.
At the root of the fighting is a desire to determine who possesses the best technology to enhance the viewing experience of the nascent 3D TV sets. LG says its film patterned retarder (FPR) technology is an advance on the industry standard shutter glass technology, both of which require glasses. LG says FPR eliminates blurry images, and that its glasses are lighter than previous issues. Samsung says FPR is outdated.
The warring kicked off in January at a trade show in Las Vegas. In February, the sparring took another turn when LG took at swipe by telling journalists that Samsung's 3D technology was a generation behind. Samsung responded in kind, and ran an ad campaign saying the difference in technology was like "night and day," reported Reuters.
Why so nasty? The stakes are high.
While the 3D TV market is fledgling – an estimate puts its share of the flat-screen market at 2 percent last year – industry observers expect the high-tech units to claim more than 40 percent of all flat-screen sales within about three years.
Rivals Samsung and LG are known to privately contempt for one another, though rarely does their distaste play out in public. "Even though it can be ugly at times," said Michael Breen, chairman of Seoul-based public relations firm Insight Communications Consultants, "it does not usually break out in public in that way."
The animosity, he added, may be driven by LG's historical position as a "follower" to Samsung, which is the forerunner in the electronics sector and South Korea's No. 1 conglomerate.