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Samsung's Baxter Talks 3D, Market Trends

8/30/2010 12:01:00 AM Eastern

NEW YORK – Samsung added to its 3D TV lineup earlier
this month by unveiling a 65-inch 3D LED TV, what it
claimed is the first portable 3D Blu-ray player, more conventional
3D Blu-ray decks and 3D home-theater systems,
as well as 3D content deals with DreamWorks, IMAX and
Giant Screen Films to be used in a new 3D starter kit.

This was all shown at a press conference at its Samsung
Experience showroom, here, and unveiling many of the new
products and developments during the event was Tim Baxter,
president of Samsung’s consumer electronics division.
Baxter has led the manufacturers’ 3D TV efforts, among a
myriad of other responsibilities.

Baxter sat down with TWICE during the event to talk
about 3D TV — obviously — 2D TV, and consumer demand
as the industry looks at the fall selling season.

TWICE: Your competitors always discuss the unique
strengths they bring to the 3D market. What do you think
Samsung’s claim to fame is in 3D?

Baxter: We help create new markets. We did it with [TV]
design years ago, and last year we created a market for
LED TVs. We think it is our responsibility as a leader to
help create new markets. And that is our focus. We think
consumers will be drawn to [3D] solutions in our designs,
our breadth of offerings, our tie-ins with content partners
and our work with our retail partners. That’s what we are
all about.

TWICE: What have you learned about consumer confusion
when it comes to 3D since your rollout in March? Any
surprises?

Baxter: Executing demos at retail for any new format is
never easy. [With 3D] you are dealing with glasses, tethered
dynamics in the display, etc. And consumer education
is critical. One surprise is that a lot of consumers must be
reminded that when they buy a 3D TV that these are great
2D TVs. We, in the industry, get too close to the products
sometimes and forget to mention things like that.

Being first with 3D and with our assortment, we have
[learned] great [lessons] about what consumers like and
dislike, because we are creating a new market. And that is
not just from [Samsung] but from our retail partners [and]
our competitors.

TWICE: How has the 3D TV market performed since
your introduction in March?

Baxter: I think you have to look at the entire market for
TVs before you discuss 3D specifically. It has been a tough
year. Industry supplies were tight [in the spring] but things
loosened up in the late spring and summer. Many expected
more of a recovery in the [in the economy] this year than we
have seen. And the last 60 days have been more difficult
than most have expected. That is not unique to CE, that’s
not unique to TV and that’s more a reflection of the macro
economic conditions.

TWICE: So the TV business this summer has been softer
than normal?

Baxter: It has been difficult because last year the industry
sold more TVs due to the digital-TV conversion. Looking
back, that might have helped weather the economic storm
Samsung's Baxter Talks 3D, Market Trends
last year more than most people realized. So we
are dealing with higher numbers from last year,
the perception that many thought the economy
would rebound more, so I think that combination
has resulted in a softer [retail sales] environment
than we anticipated.

But when we look at our performance Samsung
is still gaining share. That is a testament
to us being out in front in new technology — 3D,
LED — our focus on design, and offering a wide
assortment of solutions.

TWICE: There were shortages of 720p TVs
earlier this year. Are there still shortages now?

Baxter: I think we still have pockets of supply
tightening [in TV], and I think 720p was surely
one of those. We are hoping that will ease up a
bit. I think the surprise has been plasma. People
were writing it off two, three years ago, even last
year. But [plasma] is now growing due to a combination
of value — in a value-oriented consumer
environment — and new plasma technology. The
ability to make plasma thinner, more energy efficient
and bring it to 3D are all making it attractive
to consumers.

TWICE: Are there excess inventories for LED
in the industry?

Baxter: I think you have to peel it back a bit.
LED is still growing. It is still absolutely the preferred
solution in the big screen sizes. But I think
as with a lot of new technologies… some [consumers]
moved away from 40- to 46- inch and
moved to 55-inch TVs. You have seen a little bit
of slowdown in the smaller screen sizes but not
in the biggest screen sizes.

TWICE: A recent iSuppli survey said that Internet
TV [IP] will drive the market this year. But
others have said that 3D TV will draw traffic into
stores and online. What’s your take?

Baxter: We believe that. But the thing to remember
is that Samsung has 35 3D products
and about 25 are IP-connected. We think the
combo of IP and 3D is the way to go. We have
invested heavily in that. IP in the content stream
is here and now. 3D is not just for today but as
content continues to emerge it is future-proof.

Important part of all of this is that everyone
has heard comments that prices are too high on
3D. Really, the premium for 3D [vs. a comparable
2D TV] is around $200. And often times that
3D TV comes with IPTV and 240 Hz in a LED or
LCD package. You have a suite of solutions. We
do believe it is not one or the other, and that’s
why we are offering IP in 3D products.

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