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Baxter: Samsung’s Video Focus Is Upscale

Now a year into his role as sales and marketing executive VP for Samsung’s consumer electronics division, Tim Baxter said the company continues to grow its dominating market-share position in digital TV display products using an upscale approach.

Since his arrival, the company has “added a couple of points of market share” to its No.1 position (20 percent in 2006) in overall TV, he said, citing The NPD Group figures through September.

“That really underscores the success of our strategy, which is to participate in all HDTV technologies,” Baxter said.

For the year ahead, Samsung sees opportunities for growth pursuing early adopters and the custom home theater market segments, Baxter said, adding that Samsung is focused on giving dealers “solutions, new applications and reasons to step up to newer technology.”

He viewed declining industry sales figures for microdisplay rear-projection TV, where Samsung is a market leader, coupled with the recent exits from the category by Sony, Philips, Hitachi, Toshiba, Olevia and possibly others to follow, as an opportunity.

“We think we understand where the opportunities still exist and for us, working with our retail partners, and we don’t want to run away from it that quickly,” he said.

Samsung will continue to position its DLP rear-projection line “as the biggest of big-screen” products, he said, recognizing there are still consumers who think bigger is better.

Despite the explosive growth of LCD TV, plasma also factors prominently in Samsung’s plans for the future, and again, the company will take the segment upscale.

“Samsung recently made a $750 million investment in a new plasma panel production line,” Baxter said. “We are still very committed to the plasma business, which is in the midst of making the shift from being a price-oriented flat-panel solution to now offering more compelling solutions in 1080p that give consumers an alternative.”

As for LCD TV, Samsung is setting its sights on LED back-lighting technology as one of its signature statements in flat-panel technology.

“We are thrilled about the reception of our 81 series LED TVs, but we also recognize that it needs to be communicated and displayed in a proper way. So, our technology in LED in the 81 series is more limited in distribution by design, targeted at a consumer that is an early adopter and quite likely a second- or third-time purchaser of HDTV.”

In 2008, Samsung will also be promoting the use of additional LCD picture performance technologies including Super Clear and 120Hz technologies to make its sets standout further, he said.

For the future, Samsung is “investigating and testing” OLED as a TV technology, along with “some other technologies,” but the reality of that is we are still a couple of years before commercial application of relevant screen sizes in the U.S.,” Baxter said.

In 2007, Samsung announced plans for a dual-format Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD player for the U.S. market after first introducing Blu-ray-only players. Baxter said that despite the introduction and plans for second generation dual-format players, Samsung remains “very committed to the Blu-ray Disc camp.”

“Quite frankly, we still believe that Blu-ray provides the best long-term solution for the consumer and the industry,” he said. “Hollywood’s support behind it is significant, but we also believe there is a significant segment of early adopters who are still on the sidelines because of the confusion over the formats. We see an opportunity for a solution that takes the confusion away from the consumer and that is our Duo.”

How much longer the format war can be sustained remains unclear, Baxter said.

Samsung will continue its advertising partnership with the NFL, he said, and has just added an “Innovation Campaign” geared for early adopters, using heavy print and online vehicles to showcase its 81 series LED LCD TVs, its 94 series wireless TVs, its 89 series LED DLPs and the HD Duo player.

Other planned advertising efforts will target home theater oriented products, including HD displays, Blu-ray Disc players and HD camcorders.