By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
JVC America will place greater emphasis on flat-panel LCD TV sales this year, as its HD-ILA microdisplay line remains at the handful of SKUs introduced late last year, and CRT direct-view TVs are dropped altogether.
JVC staged an open house for dealers and press at its headquarters, here, March 14. Most products previously had been announced at International CES, but the company offered somewhat more definitive marketing information on its display plans as the flat-panel market continues to shift through aggressive price promotions.
LCD TV, particularly 1,080p models, will be key to the company's TV strategy this year, said Daniel McCarron, JVC national product manager. Screen sizes in 2007 will encompass 32W inches, 37W inches, 42W inches and 47W inches.
The top-of-the-line 898 series, which is slated to ship this September, will feature 1,080p resolution, HDMI 1.3a input and 120Hz image processing to minimize motion blurring. Screen sizes will include 42W inches (tentatively priced at a $2,699 suggested retail) and 47W inches ($3,299). The 120Hz models will add about a $500 price premium to 60Hz 1,080p models.
In July, the company will offer two 1,080p LCD TV lines with 60Hz processing. The 688 series, which features black frame cosmetics, will include the 37W-inch and 42W-inch screen sizes. The 788 series will add gloss-black styling and will include 42W-inch and 47W-inch screen sizes. In addition to improved cosmetics, the 788 uses a higher contrast panel, with about a $100 bump in pricing, McCarron said. The 1,080p models add about a $300 premium to JVC's 720p models, he added.
In 720p, LCD models will include models in 32W-inch ($1,100 suggested retail), 37W-inch ($1,500), and 42W-inch ($1,700) screen sizes.
"We really looked carefully this year at how we've come to market with LCD," said McCarron. "We were always very well rated, but we've come to the realization that we've been overbuilding product. We looked at what the opening price point brands are doing and what Sony and Samsung are doing, and we refocused our efforts. We see that the microdisplay category this year, depending on who you talk to, will be flat or declining and LCD is where our growth opportunities are."
JVC was not as well positioned as some of the other top tier flat-panel brands last year to react to the sudden price changes, he acknowledged.
As a result, McCarron said JVC has been working to "get a better build cost out of our factories, so that we can be quicker to react for our dealers, and at the gun be more competitive in our price moves."
As for market positioning, McCarron said JVC will continue to play somewhere between Sony/Samsung and Olevia/Visio.
"We expect Sony and Samsung to continue to beat each other up, so we expect to continue to be positioned somewhere below them, while offering the strong features and picture quality we are known for," he said.
At the other end, McCarron said JVC is keeping an eye on the competition and is aware that the warehouse clubs have started to become more important flat-panel destination points for some consumers.
JVC runs periodic six-month programs with some warehouse club accounts, he said, adding that the company may evaluate the channel for more opportunities later this year. Currently, Costco is carrying select HD-ILA rear-projection sets, but no flat-panel SKUs, he said.
"We build fantastic microdisplay product, but clearly [LCD TV] is the way the world is going," McCarron said. "We really want to grow our LCD presence this year."
JVC will continue to carry HD-ILA microdisplay rear-projection models introduced last year. Screen sizes include 52W inches, 61W inches and 70W inches, most with 1,080p resolution, in more traditional cabinet designs, and 58W-inch ($3,299) and 65W-inch ($4,199) models in the more recent slim-depth (10.7 inches and 11.6 inches, respectively) cabinets that were highlighted in JVC's showroom during CES.
As for direct-view CRT models, McCarron said JVC is in the final stages of clearing out inventory with no plans to continue further production.
Like Sony, JVC has found it impossible to continue developing new features for the category to compete at its end of the market, McCarron said, adding that the Federal Communications Commission DTV tuner mandate, which is now in full force, has added too much to the cost of smaller screen sizes to remain competitive.
McCarron said JVC is arranging to shift some remaining direct-view supplies to the military channels and other accounts, where direct view remains popular, but will not be building any more products.
"Some of the accounts were not pleased [by the decision to drop direct view], but there wasn't much we could do," he said.
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