Samsung and LG weathered the downturn in the TV industry well enough to keep cash to invest in production lines for the new display technology. They believe its profitability will not fall as quickly as LCD TVs because the technological gap is wide enough to fend off late-coming rivals.
"The problem with the current business model is that it has a lot of imitators," said Paul Gray, a director TV Electronics & Europe TV Research at DisplaySearch, in an email.
"The fact that Sony and Panasonic and AU Optronics Corp. are already trying to break into OLED for large screens suggests that future margins will be severely damaged by companies trying to enter the market," he said.
News reports last month said Sony and Panasonic are in talks to form an alliance for the OLED TV business.
For Samsung and LG, a bigger challenge may not be coming from Japanese, Chinese or Taiwanese rivals but from a shift in viewing habits.
"I just needed a TV to play games and to me the screen quality didn't make a big difference," said Lee, the office worker. "I would have cared more about its thinness if I were buying a computer monitor."
He said he might consider upgrading to a new television for a better screen after a year or two. By then, OLED TVs will be more affordable but less profitable for the manufacturers.
DisplaySearch forecasts the price of a 55-inch OLED TV to decline to about $4,000 by the end of 2013 and about $1,500 by the end of 2015.
That price forecast is good news for consumers. For Samsung and LG, however, it means they will still be grappling with keeping their TV businesses sustainable.
"There are no single quick fixes," said DisplaySearch's Gray. "Success in the TV industry will also depend on understanding what the TV is used for in all the new interactive possibilities."