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Philips’ Team Sings TV Swansong

New York — The Philips U.S. CE marketing team began its swansong for the TV category Monday at what is likely to be the company’s last Holidays in June press review to feature the category.

Starting Sept. 1, Funai begins its long-term licensing deal to source, market and sell all Philips- and Magnavox-branded sets in the United States and Canada.

In the transition, Andy Mintz, Philips North American consumer lifestlye sales organization A/V marketing management senior VP, will oversee the handoff of the Philips and Magnavox TV lines, while fulfilling orders of 2008 products to retail partners in the interim.

“The consumer is not going to notice a lot of change in how TVs go to market,” said Lindsay Woods, a Philips spokesperson. “Where Philips and Magnavox TVs are sold now is pretty much where they will be at least through the end of the year.”

“What’s gratifying,” observed Mintz, “is that we are shipping more TV this year than we did last year. We have a nice line this year, and we are very optimistic that the transition will go smoothly.”

Starting in September, former Philips TV executive Todd Richardson and a sales and marketing team including many former Philips employees will take over sales and distribution responsibilities for Philips-branded TVs. New offices are being established in Atlanta to handle the “premium” business. Meanwhile Magnavox-branded sets will be handled by Funai’s existing sales team in New Jersey, along with Funai, Symphonic, Sylvania and other products targeted primarily at mass-market channels.

Mintz’ team at Philips will continue to handle DVD and Blu-ray players and DTV set-top boxes, along with audio products and accessories. Many of the remaining members of Mintz’ team will relocate to new offices in Stamford, Conn., starting this fall.

In the transition, Philips is parting company with a number of sales, marketing and product-planning personnel, including Stewart Muller, one-time Philips Consumer Electronics North America president, whose last day is July 1, according to a Philips spokesperson.

As for TV products, on display at the press review were Philips’ Eco TVs, which are LCD TVs using a new back-lighting technology that dims and brightens the output of the Cold Cathode Fluorescent (CCFL) lamps behind the LCD panel in correspondence with surrounding lights in the room. The function is said to have the combined effect of improving the perceived picture quality while decreasing power consumption of the set. The sets are also made of lead-free materials, reducing the impact on landfills.

Models in Eco TV LCD line include the 42-inch 42TA648BX, $1,099 suggested retail; 42PFL3603, $1,399; and 42PFL5603, $1,399. Other models are the 47-inch 47PFL3603 for $1,499 and 47PFL5603 for $1,799, as well as the 52-inch 52PFL3603 for $1,999 and 52PFL5603 for $2,299. All are shipping now and feature 1080p.

Also shown were Philips’ currently shipping 5000 series LCD TVs, including Pixel Plus 3 HD up-conversion circuitry, and Digital Natural Motion technology to eliminate judder from film-based content. All models 42 inches and larger offer 1080p resolution.

The line includes the 32-inch 32PFL5403, $799; 42-inch 42PFL5603, $1,799; 47-inch 47PFL5603, $2,099; and 52-inch 52PFL5603, $2,899.

Also available is the Ultimate TV series of 1080p sets with 120Hz ClearLCD frame-rate technology, Invisible speaker design, Perfect Pixel HD up-conservation circuitry and HD Digital Natural Motion circuitry. Models include the 42-inch 42PFL7403, shipping now at $1,699; the 47-inch 47PFL7403, shipping now at $1,999; and the 52-inch 52PFL7403, shipping in July at $2,699.

Being phased out of the retail line are Ambilight flat-panel TVs, which were once Philips’ signature technologies. The company will continue to offer very limited SKUs of select Ambilight sets online to customers who have expressed a strong desire for them, Woods said. Funai will have to determine if it wants to return with new Ambilight models in the future.

Philips continues to make and market Ambilight products for other international markets, she added.

“We still have a robust audio and video business,” Mintz said. “In 2008, industry supply on Blu-ray Disc players is tight and we are working with select retailers. I don’t see [supply on Blu-ray players] opening up till October, November and December. In 2009, we will assess the market and decide how we will proceed.”