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Outdoor TVs Appealing To A Broader Market

5/08/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

NEW YORK – Although a niche segment of the flatpanel
TV category, outdoor models are emerging as a
growth opportunity replete with healthy margins and virtually
untapped market penetration levels.

Thus far, the category has remained the province of
the custom installation channel, with spill over into A/V
specialty accounts equipped to provide the installation
teams required for a wide variety of exterior set-ups.

It was recently revealed at the Home Technology Specialists
of America (HTSA) event that about one third
($33.6 billion) of remodeling budgets were spent on
outdoor spaces in 2011, with projections for significant
growth in 2012 as new systems come aboard.

Tom Dixon, marketing VP for one of the leading outdoor
TV brands –SunBriteTV – said his company estimates
that over 1 million U.S. homes today have patios
outfitted with full outdoor kitchens.

“People are spending between $75,000 and
$500,000 on the outdoor category, so this is the perfect
add-on piece,” Dixon said, adding that the biggest challenges
remain generating awareness of the outdoor TV
category and making prices more economy friendly.

For the most part, the segment has been represented
by a handful of manufacturers specializing in building proprietary
weather-resistant cabinets capable of placement
around pools, and in porch and patio settings in virtually
any North American climate.

For consumer placement, display technology has
been almost exclusively relegated to 32-inch or larger
LCD displays treated for reduced glare and reflection
in well-lit conditions.

Among some of the key brands representing the
segment today are Cinios, Runco, Séura, SunBriteTV
and Toshinaer.

According to consumer display market analysts
Quixel Research, outdoor TV represents “a real market.”

“It is 100 percent clear that consumers want to
watch TV outside,” said Tamaryn Pratt, Quixel principal.
“They are already watching outside, but it is interesting
and almost comical how they are achieving that
goal.”

Pratt explained that much of the competition in the
outdoor segment isn’t coming from new outdoor TV
makers but from regular low-priced flat-panel indoor
TVs that the consumer can readily replace if destroyed
by the elements.

“The market runs the gamut from exotic custom installation
of flat panels to front and rear projection. But
most folks are just wheeling their TV outside each time
they want to watch or putting up a cheapo TV and taking
it down when it is ruined,” Pratt said.

Mike Kroll, president of new outdoor TV resource
Cinios, said that conditions are aligning for what
should be a market take-off.

“We anticipate increasing growth due to two trends.
One, the past recession has people generally staying
closer to home, embracing the value of family and
friends and hence entertaining around the home – so
an outdoor TV makes a great addition to the backyard,”
said Kroll. “The second trend is that the overall
TV market has matured in the U.S. – everyone has at
least one and the brands have settled into more stable
market shares. That signals consumers looking for the
next thing.”

As with most things these days, the greatest impediment
to a wide-scale market take-off so far has
been the economic collapse and fast falling prices for
conventional indoor LCD TVs.

“The price has to be right,” Pratt cautioned. “If the
price is much more than double [the cost a comparable
in-door TV], consumers will move to a different
alternative or not buy. Yes, the quality is different
with true outdoor TVs, but pocketbooks are stretched
these days and people just make do.”

“Until recently, the price delta between the Sun-
BriteTVs, Séuras and now-defunct Pantels has been
too high to support sales of more than 200,000 units a
year,” Pratt continued. “These companies have higher
manufacturing/assembly costs and don’t buy large
quantities, so it has been challenging to expand the
outdoor TV category.”

This year, however, has witnessed a change in both
participating brands and retailers taking the plunge
into these specialized waters.

Kroll of Cinios, said that while custom installation
is the driving the channel today, “We absolutely see
this category opening up to a broader channel base.
Initially it will be slow because of the high price points
and perceived difficulty of installation. But with new
product lines featured to align with those channels, and
increased introduction of wireless HDMI and even the
AT&T U-verse wireless box, we expect to see strong
growth.”

SunBriteTV, based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., is
pushing this expansion through the recent introduction
of a re-priced consumer outdoor TV line called
Signature.

The line features more broadly appealing prices for
sets that are thoroughly protected against the elements
including heat (one of the leading killers of TVs
placed outdoors), rain, insects and direct sunlight that
can wash out the image.

Signature model prices run $1,495 (32 inches),
$2,795 (46 inches), $3,995 (55 inches) and $5,995
(65 inches).

“We systematically lowered the price of our line by
40 percent with one click of the mouse [four] weeks
ago,” said Dixon.

Green Bay, Wis.-based Séura, meanwhile, which has
marketed lines of specialized LCD TVs for alternative
in-home applications, recently ventured into the outdoor
market with the addition of its 1080p
weatherproof Storm LCD TV series including
the following pricing and screen
sizes: $5,000 (42 inches), $6,500 (47
inches) and $8,500 (65 inches).

The Storm models include LuminOptics
technology, which works together
with a colorless dual-layer anti-reflective
safety glass to render a bright image in
sunny environments.

Cinios of Irvine, Calif., is a new company
with an outdoor TV lineup called
the Hurricane series, including the following
prices and screen sizes: $1,895
(32 inches), $2,795 (42 inches) and
$4,595 (55 inches). A second-generation Backyard TV line is planned for later in the year,
Kroll said.

Another recent comer is Toshinaer, of Huntington
Beach, Calif., which introduced a line of weatherproof
LCD TVs in the $4,600 (42-inch), $8,600 (52-
inch) and $26,000 (60-inch), screen sizes. The 60-
inch piece adds LED backlighting.

All Toshinaer models incorporate a photocell that
senses sunlight to automatically brighten or dim the
picture as needed.

The sets also include a thermostat-controlled internal
cooling system, marine-grade speakers and
powder-coated aluminum bezels.

Some upscale players, including established
custom-install resource Runco International, of Beaverton,
Ore., will continue to cater to the well-to-do
segment, cognizant that the outdoor trend is not universal
even among the custom trade.

The company markets the weather-tight Runco
CP-52HD ($13,995 suggested retail) 52-inch native
1080p LCD TV. The company also provides Weather-
Brite LCD-based external signage screens from Runco
parent Planar for some installations.

“Some of our dealers are finding great success with
outdoor displays and others do not,” said Jennifer Davis,
Runco International marketing VP. “This variation is
driven by their own client base and the weather in their
region. Many of our traditional residential dealers are
finding success in light commercial work in corporate
and hospitality projects, where our Planar Weather-
Bright outdoor signage product is a great fit.”

“It is a category of product that can differentiate
a dealer and provide a new range of possibilities for
their client.” Davis added.

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