Samsung's Baxter Talks 3D, Market Trends

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NEW YORK

– Samsung added to its 3D TV lineup earlier this month by unveiling a 65-inch 3D LED TV, what it claimed is the first portable 3D Blu-ray player, more conventional 3D Blu-ray decks and 3D home-theater systems, as well as 3D content deals with DreamWorks, IMAX and Giant Screen Films to be used in a new 3D starter kit.

This was all shown at a press conference at its Samsung Experience showroom, here, and unveiling many of the new products and developments during the event was Tim Baxter, president of Samsung’s consumer electronics division. Baxter has led the manufacturers’ 3D TV efforts, among a myriad of other responsibilities.

Baxter sat down with TWICE during the event to talk about 3D TV — obviously — 2D TV, and consumer demand as the industry looks at the fall selling season.

TWICE:

Your competitors always discuss the unique strengths they bring to the 3D market. What do you think Samsung’s claim to fame is in 3D?

Baxter:

We help create new markets. We did it with [TV] design years ago, and last year we created a market for LED TVs. We think it is our responsibility as a leader to help create new markets. And that is our focus. We think consumers will be drawn to [3D] solutions in our designs, our breadth of offerings, our tie-ins with content partners and our work with our retail partners. That’s what we are all about.

TWICE:

What have you learned about consumer confusion when it comes to 3D since your rollout in March? Any surprises?

Baxter:

Executing demos at retail for any new format is never easy. [With 3D] you are dealing with glasses, tethered dynamics in the display, etc. And consumer education is critical. One surprise is that a lot of consumers must be reminded that when they buy a 3D TV that these are great 2D TVs. We, in the industry, get too close to the products sometimes and forget to mention things like that.

Being first with 3D and with our assortment, we have [learned] great [lessons] about what consumers like and dislike, because we are creating a new market. And that is not just from [Samsung] but from our retail partners [and] our competitors.

TWICE:

How has the 3D TV market performed since your introduction in March?

Baxter:

I think you have to look at the entire market for TVs before you discuss 3D specifically. It has been a tough year. Industry supplies were tight [in the spring] but things loosened up in the late spring and summer. Many expected more of a recovery in the [in the economy] this year than we have seen. And the last 60 days have been more difficult than most have expected. That is not unique to CE, that’s not unique to TV and that’s more a reflection of the macro economic conditions.

TWICE:

So the TV business this summer has been softer than normal?

Baxter:

It has been difficult because last year the industry sold more TVs due to the digital-TV conversion. Looking back, that might have helped weather the economic storm Samsung's Baxter Talks 3D, Market Trends last year more than most people realized. So we are dealing with higher numbers from last year, the perception that many thought the economy would rebound more, so I think that combination has resulted in a softer [retail sales] environment than we anticipated.

But when we look at our performance Samsung is still gaining share. That is a testament to us being out in front in new technology — 3D, LED — our focus on design, and offering a wide assortment of solutions.

TWICE:

There were shortages of 720p TVs earlier this year. Are there still shortages now?

Baxter:

I think we still have pockets of supply tightening [in TV], and I think 720p was surely one of those. We are hoping that will ease up a bit. I think the surprise has been plasma. People were writing it off two, three years ago, even last year. But [plasma] is now growing due to a combination of value — in a value-oriented consumer environment — and new plasma technology. The ability to make plasma thinner, more energy efficient and bring it to 3D are all making it attractive to consumers.

TWICE:

Are there excess inventories for LED in the industry?

Baxter:

I think you have to peel it back a bit. LED is still growing. It is still absolutely the preferred solution in the big screen sizes. But I think as with a lot of new technologies… some [consumers] moved away from 40- to 46- inch and moved to 55-inch TVs. You have seen a little bit of slowdown in the smaller screen sizes but not in the biggest screen sizes.

TWICE:

A recent iSuppli survey said that Internet TV [IP] will drive the market this year. But others have said that 3D TV will draw traffic into stores and online. What’s your take?

Baxter:

We believe that. But the thing to remember is that Samsung has 35 3D products and about 25 are IP-connected. We think the combo of IP and 3D is the way to go. We have invested heavily in that. IP in the content stream is here and now. 3D is not just for today but as content continues to emerge it is future-proof.

Important part of all of this is that everyone has heard comments that prices are too high on 3D. Really, the premium for 3D [vs. a comparable 2D TV] is around $200. And often times that 3D TV comes with IPTV and 240 Hz in a LED or LCD package. You have a suite of solutions. We do believe it is not one or the other, and that’s why we are offering IP in 3D products.

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