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Runco Readies Long-Awaited June Vidikron Launch

5/19/2003 02:00:00 AM Eastern

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Although the 2003 edition of Runco's Mexico Getaway for top-selling dealers was focused on Runco's lines of elite video systems, company executives were preparing for the imminent launch of its new Vidikron brand in June.

Although the plans for Vidikron were not openly discussed with Runco dealers, it was a key topic in the separate discussions with Runco's 18 rep organizations, which will be used at least initially to distribute Vidikron products to a somewhat broader class of retail distribution, both domestically and internationally.

Ben Jamison, Runco sales and marketing VP, said Vidikron would employ "selective distribution" practices, in a manner similar to that of the flagship Runco line.

"The Vidikron brand is going to have a very distinct personality," Jamison assured.

Jamison said Vidikron will eventually have a very broad product assortment and will be focused on "lifestyle positioning for the guy who has the BMW as opposed to the guy who has the Rolls Royce." The latter, of course, would be a Runco customer.

Aesthetically, Vidikron products will be designed "with a very small footprint," in contrast to some of Runco's high-performance projectors, which can be quite large. Cabinet colors for the Vidikron projectors will be mostly off-whites and grays that fit into most "lifestyle decors," Jamison said. This marks a departure from the bright yellow and red cabinets that had been used with some Vidikron projectors in the past.

"The New Vidikron products will not be targeted at $1.5 million home theater rooms. This is more for the family room, and it needs to blend in with the surroundings," Jamison explained.

Core technologies in Runco and Vidikron equipment "will be pretty similar," Jamison said. "Throw distances and lens options will be different, so a Vidikron projector will be designed to fit into a lot of different room scenarios, where installation can be a lot more challenging than what you would find in a dedicated home theater situation."

The first two products in the line will be front projectors based on Texas Instrument's Digital Light Procressing (DLP) engines. The Vidikron Model 20 and Model 40 projectors are scheduled to begin shipping in June, and will be formally introduced during the Home Entertainment Expo in San Francisco June 5, 2003.

Model 40 is billed as "an under-$10,000 projector" that uses TI's HD-2 (1,280 x 720) DMD chip and Cat's Eye Optics, which Runco/Vidikron technicians have tweaked for the highest possible contrast performance. It also includes an Intelliwide viewing mode that stretches 4:3 signal sources to the 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio without sacrificing picture quality or creating image distortion.

Model 20 will use a lower resolution TI chip, but will include the same Cat's Eye Optics Variable Iris technology, and Intelliwide mode as the Model 40. Both models will include multiple lens options to enable placement in a wide variety of room configurations. Exact pricing will be announced next month.

Over the following six months, the Vidikron line "will begin to be filled out" with several product categories including plasma display panels and higher-end DLP projectors. Also under consideration are LCD products, Jamison said.

The previously announced Vidikron launch products highlighted by the VP-46 are no longer in the plan, he said.

"When Bob [Hana, new Runco president] and I came in, we didn't feel that those were the right products, mainly because of the passage of time," he offered. "We are getting different sources that we will use to get products into the Vidikron line."

Jamison said the philosophy behind the launch of the Vidikron products is the same as that for Runco — "we would rather get the products right than be first to market."

Vidikron units will be designed to Runco specifications, and "will be different from all of the other stuff that is out there on the market," Jamison vowed.

He acknowledged that there had been hiccups in launching Vidikron, with repeatedly delayed delivery dates, followed by the cancellation of announced products, altogether. He attributed that to the change in management, which brought him in along with Bob Hana. He added that Runco International founder and chairman Sam Runco, "to his credit wanted to make sure the structure and support was fully in place, instead of just throwing another brand out there."

Jamison said the dealers Runco has already approached about signing on with Vidikron "are very excited about the product line. It opens up some new segments for us, and brings in some new users who previously might not have been able to afford a Runco product."

He was reluctant to name any dealers who have enlisted with the Vidikron line to date, but added "the distribution partners we use will be a little more prominent than the typical Runco dealer. It will still be a custom installer product, but there will be some installers that maintain a retail presence that will have the product as well."

At launch, the brand will be positioned in advertising and signage as "the New Vidikron." For a limited amount of time, "A Runco International company" will be added as a tag line.

"But that won't be used for long," Jamison said. "The brand will stand on its own. It doesn't need Runco to succeed."

Building international business is another objective behind the acquisition and launch of Vidikron. The brand originally hailed from Italy, where it enjoyed a strong European following. In time, Jamison said, the company will have specific resources and product development cycles focused on international markets.

"One of things we have done with the Vidikron brand and something we intend to do more of with Runco is focus more and more on the international markets," Jamison said. "Each of those regions of the world has its own set of challenges, and a lot of American companies tend not to understand international marketing well. We are going to make sure that we understand the international markets very well."