San Antonio — The Progressive Retailers Organization was at the Westin La Cantera Hill Coun
Portable mobile video, or "video-in-a-bag," products are expected to grow by more than 20 percent this year, said manufacturers, with several new players entering the market.
Sales for the category will reach 1.5 million to 2 million units this year, according to Audiovox mobile video VP George Schedavy.
The category "has only scratched the surface. The growth opportunity over the next three-to-five years is even greater," noted Best Buy mobile products marketing director Mike Manske.
With an estimated 60-percent share of the market, Audiovox reported sales to date are up 25 percent. Now other suppliers are becoming more aggressive and still others, including Emerson, Nissho Iwai America and MAC Recreational Products are offering their first portable video products this season.
Fun TV said its sales are doubling each year in the category, and RCA said it expects strong increases this year because it lowered prices and released a combination VCP/DVD, which is proving to be a popular new platform.
RCA recently launched a trial market in Wal-Mart with its new combo 71400MDV, now in 450 of the chain's locations. The 71400MDV has a 7-inch, 16-by-9 screen, VCP/DVD with MP3 at $549, the company said.
"We expect it do a lot better than pieces in the past because we think we have the features and price point," noted Dan Crupi, RCA product manager for direct-view TV.
Crupi added that RCA will promote more aggressively this year. "We didn't really campaign on the other products," he said. "We're hoping to do a much better job from a marketing perspective, and we're looking at resizing and new designs for 2004."
Audiovox recently began selling through Best Buy and says it will launch a car-to-home (or car-to-car) series later this year that double as battery-operated portable TVs. The line is based on the D1210, 12-inch unit with DVD, which outperformed expectations, according to Tom Malone, mobile electronics group senior VP.
"The D1210 has been an extraordinary surprise, like we can't even tell you, at $899. It's an indicator that the large screen sizes are important and the ability to get the maximum flexibility out of these products is also important," Malone said.
The D1210 can be used in the kitchen as a flat-panel TV, or in a hotel room as a DVD player, he added. A 5-inch unit is slated for September with 5.8-inch and 7-inch units to follow in January 2004.
Other suppliers are jumping on the bandwagon with dual DVD/VCR units, including a model from Emerson that can play DVD and VHS cassettes simultaneously. The MD-1777 will ship in September and will be sold as a deck for $449, or as a part of a portable system-in-a-bag with a 7-inch monitor as the CMB-2777, listing for $999, said Kamran Benji, Emerson Mobile VP. The unit supports MP3 and comes with a four-way video- and audio-switching feature to view up to four different displays at once.
Nissho Iwai America launched the "G2G" (Good2Go) line of portable mobile video players in April, after purchasing patents from Meritt Electronics for the VideoTraveler. G2G is offering approximately six portable mobile video models, including a VCP/DVD combination with 5.6-inch monitor that can play each format separately, but not simultaneously. Also available is a system with two 5.6-inch monitors and a DVD player. All models offer both AC and 12-volt operation. They range in price from approximately $199 to $499 and are available at Sam's Club, Best Buy, BJ's and Pep Boys, said a spokesman.
MAC Recreational Electronics (MRE), La Verne, Calif., a manufacturer of extruded aluminum products, is offering a portable mobile DVD with 5.6-inch LCD. The units are connected through a special bracket for easy viewing and portability. The system straps onto the back of any type of seat in the car, said the company. MRE began selling to the Frontgate catalog in May, said Keven Freedman, director of sales. The unit carries a suggested retail price of $449.
In other mobile video products, Audiovox began shipping a custom headrest/monitor line. It offers prefabricated headrests for General Motors and Toyota models with built-in high-resolution 7-inch, 16-by-9 monitors. The units include infrared transmitters and dual inputs and are adjustable for different viewing angles, said the company. Audiovox said it would offer models for other car makes in the future.
Emerson is also planning for fall a "moveable" monitor designed to shuttle between a visor and a headrest for front- or rear-seat viewing. This eliminates the expense of multiple screens, says the company. It also allows the customer to remove the screen from the car to avoid theft, it said. The moveable screens are expected to ship in September in 6 inches and 7 inches at $399 and $499, respectively.
Also in mobile video, Savv recently began shipping a 10.4-inch overhead video monitor that includes the company's Se-net technology. Se-net allows video-system components to easily "network." It incorporates a three-position dome light at a suggested retail price of $899.