San Diego - Mike Abary,
home division senior VP, said the limited upcoming exclusive launch of Sony Internet TVs powered by Google TV through Best Buy was undertaken in part to better control the messaging of a potentially complicated new technology.
In an interview with TWICE, Abary said: "When you are pioneering a new category you want to make sure there is a way we can deliver [our message] to the consumer in a way that we feel is most appropriate and more controllable. So we felt that by having limited distribution we are able to provide a better experience for the consumer in the way it is demonstrated and articulated.
"In Best Buy we have a national scope in distributing to chain-wide stores. We think that nationwide access is important. It also offered the ability to work very, very closely with a partner to deliver the experience that we expect at Sony."
Abary said the move, which is expected to see the first Sony Internet TVs hit Best Buy floors the week of Oct. 24, was part of Sony's carefully calculated channel strategy, which has delivered other limited distribution programs to other retail venues in the past.
"We absolutely value our relationship with each and every one of our retail partners," Abary said. "This is a brand new category for Sony, and there were reasons why, as I explained, that we have to limit the distribution of this product. Our retail partnerships are extremely important in delivering the Sony value, the Sony story, the Sony goodness, in the rest of our TV and home audio/video portfolio. We have [other] initiatives with retail partners that quite frankly Best Buy doesn't have. It is all part of our channel strategy."
Abary would not say how long Best Buy will have an exclusive (along with Sony Style stores) to distribute the Internet TV lineup, adding, "There is not a stated exclusivity window for Best Buy."
Best Buy will provide dedicated Google TV merchandising kiosks in each store to showcase various powered by Google TV products for Sony and Logitech, he said. The stand-alone displays will feature one or two models of Sony Internet TVs, the Sony Internet powered by Google TV Blu-ray Disc player and a Logitech product.
"Part of our investment with Best Buy is that there needs to be a place that calls out stand-alone Internet TV or Google TV products," Abary said. "It will be adjacent to where the televisions are positioned on the race track. It will be in core departments of Best Buy stores, chain-wide."
Abary said there is no set requirement for broadband bandwidth in stores.
"What we are doing, and part of working with limited distribution is, we can work very closely with the specs and the requirements for how to deliver the experience into the store. It becomes easier for us to negotiate with and collaborate with fewer partners in that regard at this point in time," he added. "What we've seen in regard to HD streaming of content is that anywhere between 6 to 10Mbps is acceptable and 20Mbps is optimal."
He acknowledged that not all Best Buy locations will support the full 20Mbps rate.
Abary added that the Sony Internet TVs are being handled as a distinct segment of its business from its core TV lines. He compared the effort as closer to what the company has done with Vaio PC products than typical A/V product introductions.
Abary said Sony has not yet selected other retailer it will use as distribution partners in the next wave of the Internet TV rollout, or when, exactly, that will take place.
But demonstration and concept communication will be important elements in the selection.
"As an industry we all need to do a better job of minimizing consumer confusion by making sure people understand technology in a very simple way," Abary said of the recent wave of new technology introductions hitting the marketplace at once. "We try not to overlap potentially competing technologies, like 3D, like Internet connectivity or Sony Internet TV or LED designs. Those are all fairly new technologies that are confusing consumers."
"We believe that we have to do a really good job in terms of demonstrating [technologies for] and educating consumers, especially in retail," he added. "We have a huge focus on that in the company. That is a big part of what we are doing for everything from Sony Internet TVs to Vaios to cameras and everything. This is an important initiative and we are undertaking a number of things right now" to get the message to the consumer.