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A/V Specialists Looking For Alternatives In Upscale TVs

6/01/2009 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Just like the line by retailers 20 years ago that they were “waiting for the next VCR,” PRO Group retailers — and other A/V specialists and custom installers — are looking for the “next Pioneer” to replace its upscale flat-panel business.

TV makers interviewed by TWICE at the PRO meeting late last month said yes, they have products in their lines designed to fit the bill — featuring new and existing technologies like LED, upscale plasma, possibly 3-D TVs and OLED — down the road that will garner interest and premium price points. But it won't just be a matter of retailers plugging in one brand with another.

Mike Troetti, president of Sharp Marketing Corp. of America, whose company has an investment in Pioneer, said, “We were interested in [marketing] the Pioneer Elite brand. We suggested it,” but nothing came of the idea.

In the 2009 Sharp TV lineup there are LED LCDs under the Aquos brand and features such as 120Hz Fine Motion Technology and 10-bit panels.

Tim Baxter, president of Samsung's consumer electronics division, said new technology will fill the bill down the road but now “We feel our super-thin energy efficient TVs are the best of the best. In the first four months of the year our plasma TV share is up 5 percent. We are planning to go after Pioneer's share of the market ... with our plasma line and LED.”

Baxter added that Samsung has “focused on the specialty channel” to build its brand and has had “a 35 percent growth rate in the channel ... with unique products.”

Scott Ramirez, television marketing VP for Toshiba, noted, “We have been approached by ex-Pioneer TV retailers. We fell we will get a good part of that business. There won't be a single [brand] replacement for Pioneer.”

He added, “A $2000 premium on TVs is not a good business model in this economy.”

Ramirez noted that its Regza line introduced at International CES “is targeted for the specialty channel.” Reactions to the line, that are shipping starting this month, have been “overwhelmingly positive” because the features and cabinet style “give consumers a high-end appearance and performance in this economy ... at a good price. A 55-inch LED TV at $2,999, with picture quality that will blow you away, the [upscale] consumer can buy it and feel good they got a quality TV, at the right price.”

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