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Retail Panelists: Ultra HD Performing 'Beyond Expectations'

11/17/2013 07:00:00 PM Eastern

NEW YORK – “Beyond expectations” summed up how Ultra High-Definition TV sales are doing at retail, according to panelists at the TWICE/CEA Ultra HD Conference, held here last Tuesday.

Moderated by Alan Wolf, senior editor of TWICE, “Taking Ultra HD to Retail” panelists included Tom Campbell, corporate director of Video and Audio Center; Robert Zohn, owner of Value Electronics; Brian Siegel, merchandising and operations VP at Sony Stores; and CEA’s Shawn DuBravac.

Campbell said Ultra HD will go “well beyond acceptance of HDTV,” and he noted, “When you saw the LG 77-inch curved OLED Ultra HD shown here earlier, you heard the media gasp, applaud and there were pictures taken. This will go beyond expectations.”

DuBravac said that if you look back at adoption curves of Blu-ray, HDTV and DVD, “as we head into the fourth quarter, we are getting right where we should be” with Ultra HD.

Siegel said Sony Stores demonstrate Ultra HD at the center of the store and ask consumers to create content with their smartphones. The demo also shows native 4K content from the Sony player as well as upconverted DirecTV and Blu-ray programming.

“We show the full 4K spectrum,” he said.

Zohn said sales of the Sony 4K Unlimited server have been “tremendous” as add-on sales for its Sony Ultra HD sales, as did Campbell and Siegel.

“We force viewers to watch an 85-inch screen closely, 4.5 feet away, and no one has ever said, ‘We are too close. We don’t like it.’ [But] just the opposite,” said Zohn, describing the in-store demo.

All the panelists said that Ultra HD needs to be demonstrated and sold at brick-and-mortar stores, but unlike the HDTV rollout, there will be more education being done online by consumers.

DuBravac put it this way: “Sixty-five percent of consumers know the term ‘Ultra High-Definition TV.’ That is pretty well-known for a new technology. This will drive people in to the retail environment … not just the in-store experience as well. Many see it on a retailer’s website and educate themselves.”

Campbell, who at Video and Audio Center has held several promotions in the past year for Ultra HD, explained that years ago retail events were just “focused on price … now we focus on technology you have to see. We need to create an atmosphere where we get a good share of discretionary consumer dollars for Ultra HD.”

In terms of promotions and advertising, Zohn said that the effect on his business is that “we are doing more advertising due to Ultra HD. What we are [emphasizing] is that it is an exceptional technology and that you have to buy it.”

When asked about the effects of manufacturers selling to national chains along with specialty retailers like Video and Audio Center and Value Electronics, Zohn said, “I don’t appreciate it. Best Buy gets a 30- to 90-day lead time in some cases.” Campbell added, “I don’t appreciate either, but I understand it.”

CEA’s DuBravac noted that cost is the No. 1 objection, “Which is great since … due to competition, prices will come down, which does drive awareness.”

DuBravac said if the negativity about Ultra HD was about “the functionality of the experience,” such as wearing of glasses for 3D as several panelists mentioned during the discussion, that would be hard to overcome. “Price is something that can be taken care of,” he added.

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