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Sony: ‘Value-Priced’ Bravia LCD TV Line Not Just For Wal-Mart

Sony Electronics said its specially designed Bravia LCD line will not be exclusive to Wal-Mart, and the company is bullish on set-top Blu-ray sales for 2007.

The East Coast version of Sony’s biannual roundtable was held last week with president Stan Glasgow and Randy Waynick, senior VP, home products division, with Bravia and Blu-ray topping the list of items discussed.

Waynick said Sony will be selling a “value-priced” Bravia M Series by the end of July and the beginning of August to Wal-Mart that will “not be exclusive” to the chain and would also go to Target and other retailers. Sony confirmed the decision to sell Bravia-branded sets during a West Coast press briefing last Monday. Wal-Mart discussed an expanded Sony presence in its refurbished CE departments recently. (See p. 4 and TWICE, May 21, p. 1.)

Waynick did not provide pricing for the three SKUs that are 26 inches, 32 inches and 40 inches. He described the selection as “the foundation of the lineup” in that it will not have all the design elements of the rest of the Bravia line, such as fewer HDMI slots, and will only go up to 720p vs. its emphasis on 1080p for the rest of the line.

“We have had relationships with Wal-Mart and Target in TV in the past, on a limited store basis,” Waynick noted. “These products are designed with their stores and their customers in mind. It is a good opportunity for both of us … and is an important part of our business.”

The Bravia M Series TVs were not on display during Sony’s recent press conference on its video line and advertising plans. (See p. 32.)

Sony was also bullish on prospects for the Blu-ray format. Waynick said Blu-ray players will sell six to seven times more units in calendar year 2007 than last year. He said that last year Blu-ray sold from 100,000 to 125,000 set-top players, not including PS3 or Vaio drives. “We see sales expanding at six to seven times that. [Blu-ray] only had a limited number of units available by the end of last year.”

And in software Waynick said Blu-ray software is selling “three to one over HD-DVD.”

Even though Toshiba has gained sales with a rebate bringing its entry-level HD DVD deck down to $299, Waynick said, “We feel the $499 [BDP-S300] Blu-ray player will be competitive and a great value.”

Glasgow addressed the Tweeter situation (see p. 1) and the Sony Style retail operation. He said Sony’s operation had “tremendous growth online and in stores” during its fiscal year that ended March 31. It has re-launched with quicker checkout and product comparison tools, Glasgow said. And at Sony Style stores — starting in San Diego and now in seven locations, several in the New York metropolitan area — there is “Backstage,” an area where customers can upgrade or have their Vaio PCs repaired, have questions answered and schedule other types of repair, installation and education services.

In advertising, where Sony announced a $100 million program (see p. 31), Glasgow explained, “We changed our method of advertising. We used to advertise each category, but now we are grouping them together for three or four major campaigns a year. We call it our ‘silver bullet’ system — saturate the market for an eight- to 10-week period on the whole series of products.” He said the recent digital imaging effort was a success and drove business.

On the product side, Sony is cooperating with its retailers to come up with customized bundles of HD-related products for a set price. Glasgow explained, “HD is the playing card for all of this. Once consumer buys an HDTV they want to know, ‘What source?’ We see bundling makes sense to give audio 5.1 system, create content with an HD camcorder” and other products like Vaio PCs or notebooks and PS3. The bundled products are customized by retailers in cooperation with Sony and are available now in some retail outlets, he said.