Advent, Jensen Brands Returning To TV Business

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The Advent and Jensen brands are coming to television — again.

Chinese television manufacturer Prima Technology, whose corporate parent is based in Xiamen, announced at CES that it has reached a deal with Recoton Audio Corp. to license the Advent and Jensen brand names for lines of mid- to upper-end direct view televisions. The company plans to distribute the sets initially through large regional and national electronics accounts. Prima has sales offices in Minneapolis under the name Schoenfeld International.

The televisions will be manufactured in China by the Xiamen Chinese Electronics, which is Prima Technology's partent firm, and currently that country's top television exporter. The objective is to present a line of high-performance analog and digital televisions that can be aggressively priced, said Lee Schoenfeld, Prima Technology sales and marketing senior VP.

In an arrangement that is unusual for brand licensing deals, Recoton has retained quality control oversight for the products to ensure performance quality and reliability standards live up to the audio components in the brands' core product lines, said Jim Braun, Recoton Audio executive VP.

"We saw this as a brand building opportunity that would pay off on many fronts," said Braun. "In addition to bringing in additional revenue to the Recoton Audio Corporation, [the Prima deal] brings significant overall value to our brands by having our names associated with breakthrough video products."

Advent and Recoton product planners will work with Prima to develop matched lines of TV and audio components for next-generation offerings. Braun said he expects to see Advent or Jensen speaker lines that are matched from a technical and cosmetic sense to some of the new televisions.

Sales and distribution of the televisions will be handled separately from the core businesses. Schoenfeld, who was Best Buy's marketing senior VP until 1996, is coordinating U.S. television distribution, and negotiated the brand agreements with Recoton.

"Our whole strategy is based on giving Prima the chance to enter the market with middle- and higher-end product by not even offering lower-end product, and by offering licensed name brands that mattered to retailers today," said Schoenfeld.

The Jensen and Advent brands already command considerable recognition among audio/video enthusiasts, and had been used briefly in the early to mid-80s for television lines.

In fact, Advent founder Henry Kloss pioneered projection television technology under the Advent brand until development costs made it impossible for the company to compete. Jensen had also carried 19-inch and 25-inch models made by a third party Japanese manufacturer in the early days of home theater.

Braun said Jensen stopped carrying its own televisions when price compression made it impossible for the company to compete.

Currently, both Best Buy and its Canadian Future Shop operation have signed on to carry some of the television models. Schoenfeld said landing those accounts had more to do with the attributes of the products than his past ties to Best Buy.

Schoenfeld said the initial Advent television line would include eight models, split between analog and digital-ready capability. In analog, the line will include one 20-inch model ($199 suggested retail), one 24-inch model ($299), and two 27-inch models ($379 and $499). The top-end 27-inch model will feature a metallic cabinet with dual-tuner PIP.

Digital models include two 32-inch 4:3 models. The entry unit is HDTV-capable with a true flat-screen tube and display capability for the 1080i, 480p and 480i formats ($999). The step-up model (pricing to be determined) adds 720p display capability and a Faroudja DCDi video processing chip to up convert standard definition sources.

The company will also offer a pair of widescreen 16:9 direct view monitors in the 30W-inch and 34W-inch screen sizes, both will include the DCDi chip. Prices have not been determined for either.

The Jensen line will include all of the analog models in the Advent line at similar prices and with only minor cosmetics differences. All sets will feature digital comb filters, velocity scan modulation, S-video connections, and component video inputs. Digital monitors will add HD-level component video inputs as well as HD-level RGB via 15-pin D-sub connectors. Models will ship to dealers late in second quarter and early in the third quarter.

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