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New Focus, Strategy for Zenith

In part to unveil its newly focused direction as a “sales, marketing, distribution and technology company,” Zenith this month invited 800 dealers to Las Vegas to take the wraps off its 1999 product line.

Although Zenith is shedding its manufacturing operations, Zenith Sales president Bill Sims assured dealers that the company will be better positioned as a one-stop-shop supplier to deliver high-demand products in a timely and effective manner.

The new direction includes a strong commitment to big-screen TV sets in both the direct-view and projection categories and a beefed-up assortment of commodity 13″ and 19″ color sets, which had been constricted in recent years while Zenith struggled to bring production costs in balance with cut-throat retail prices.

Now, Zenith will source products built to its specifications from a variety of manufacturers, including its own parent company LG Electronics.

Sims said LG will manufacture all of Zenith’s large screen direct-view TVs, VCRs and DVD players, while Hitachi manufactures its rear-projection sets, Fujitsu builds its 42W” plasma display panel, Orion makes its TV/VCRs, Daewoo its 13″ and 19″ sets, and Taylor-White will assemble console TVs.

Additionally, the company set firm August introduction plans for its delayed 65W” fully integrated HDTV set and announced plans for a second 56W” fully integrated HDTV model to follow late in 1999. Both sets are rear-projection models. Digital models will come from LG factories in Korea.

Patrick Kilroy, Zenith consumer product management director, said Zenith’s 64″ model (IQB6410W) will carry an expected retail price of $7,999 and will include 9″ CRTs capable of producing more lines of resolution than the 7″ CRT models that currently dominate the early HDTV models of competitors.

Zenith’s newly introduced 56W” model (IQB56W10) will use 7″ CRTs and carry a $6,495 expected street price.

New to the unit is a thinner, sleeker cabinet design than other Zenith rear-projection models. Additionally, the company said it has included a slide-on protective screen.

In order to make the sets compatible with various forthcoming digital set-top devices, including some HD-DBS IRDs, Zenith has added an extensive array of inputs. These include a 15-pin S-VGA input, which is the connection Thomson plans to build into its HDTV set-top box that will tune off-air ATSC broadcasts as well as DirecTv standard and HD signals.

New direct-view multimedia monitors designed to receive HDTV scan formats, PC signals and standard NTSC analog signals were also introduced. A 36″ 4:3 model (IB36C95W) will ship in June at a $1,999 retail price. It features RGB inputs and displays a 480p image.

Zenith is offering a 42W” widescreen plasma display panel that will present a 480p image and sell for $12,999.

The company said it is working with Hitachi on a single-panel LCD-based rear-projection set that will offer a smaller and lighter cabinet than CRT-based models of the same screen sizes. Zenith showed a 50″ version that measures 20″ deep and produces DTV scan formats, though at sub-HDTV resolution levels. The set is expected to ship by the end of the year at a $5,995 street price.

Also shown was Zenith’s 27″ 4:3 flat-screen direct-view model, originally announced at CES as using Zenith’s Flat Tension Mask (FTM) technology. However, the company said at the line show that FTM is not used in the tube.

The 27″ set (IQB27FW) will be sold under the Zenith/Inteq “True Flat” brand at a $1,999 suggested retail price and will compete with Sony’s analog Wega products.

Another unusual-for-Zenith product on display was a prototype of an integrated A/V receiver and DVD video player. The unit is expected to carry a $999 suggested retail price and should be available in July.

In reaffirming the company’s commitment to the Divx DVD format, Sims said the first player, which effectively launched the format in the U.S. last year, quickly sold out and “was very successful for us.” So much so, that Zenith is offering two models this year.

The price premium for the feature has dropped from $100 to $50. Suggested retail prices for the five dedicated players range from $379 to $499.

The entry-level DVD2200 includes a 10-bit video digital-to-analog converter, 24-bit/96 kHz audio DACs, 3D Virtual Surround, and Dolby Digital and DTS pass-through capability. Also added is a new feature called EZ Scan with Marker, which allows viewers to mark specific scenes during playback so they can quickly return to that point in the program at a later time.

Model DVX2205 ($429 suggested retail) adds Divx to the same feature package. Component video outputs and universal remotes are added to the step-up model DVD2250 ($399); optical and coax audio outputs are added to Zenith/Inteq model IQDVD2300 ($449); and Divx and a built-in Dolby Digital decoder are added to the Zenith/Inteq IQDVX2305 ($499). Component video connections are omitted from the latter.

In television, new for 1999 are five 36″ models, five 32″, six 27″, four 25″, three 19″, three 13″ models (including a model with a transparent cabinet originally designed for the prison market) and a 9″ AC/DC white set. Additionally, Sims said Zenith intends to maintain its leadership position in the console TV market by offering a seven-model line, including a 36″ model carrying a $1,999 suggested retail.

A 19″ Game TV (B19A23DC, $329 suggested retail) features 3D (built-in three-channel) front surround, front A/V jacks for console connections, and a gray finish that matches the N64 video game console.

High-end models in most of the large-screen sizes carry the dual Zenith/Inteq logo.

The top-of-the-line 36″ direct-view model IQB36B44W ($1,549 suggested) features picture performance enhancements including Invar shadow mask, digital comb filter, and Scan Velocity Modulation to produce 800 lines of resolution. Features include two-tuner PIP and Guide Plus+ Gold.

Zenith also offers a collection of user-friendly features denoted with the EZ prefix. These include: EZ Theater, for color temperature adjustment; EZ Programming, for auto channel programming; and EZ SoundRite, which maintains automatic volume-level control.

The new rear-projection lineup includes seven models in the 50″, 55″ and 60″ screen sizes in suggested retail prices ranging from $1,999 to $2,999. The top-of-the-line Zenith/Inteq 92 Series available in each screen size includes 3D-Y/C comb filters, 7″ CRTs, 9-point digital convergence, universal remotes with glow keys, and component video inputs.

In VCRs, Zenith said it is now offering a low-end line of models under its Allegro brand. Suggested retail prices range from $129.95 to $149.95 for a four-head Hi-Fi. Nine models will be offered in the Zenith and Zenith/Inteq series. Prices range from $139-$229.

Also expanded is the TV/VCR line, which includes two 19″ units, three at 13″, and one 9″ AC/DC unit. Suggested retail prices for the 13″ and 19″ models range from $299.95 to $349.95, while the 9″ (TVBR0922) carries a $329.95 suggested retail.