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Vizio Moves Up Market, Inks Beyoncé

Vizio used its first appearance as an official exhibitor at International CES to unveil a new step-up direction in its LCD TV technology and to reveal plans to expand distribution behind a line of select step-up products targeted at the A/V specialty and custom-installation retail channels.

The company also announced the transition of its national spokesperson from San Diego Chargers’ running back LaDanian Tomlinson, who has appeared in national advertising for the past several years, to pop icon Beyoncé Knowles.

The agreement with Knowles focuses on the U.S. promotion of the Vizio brand and products, but allows the parties to expand the relationship as Vizio enters new markets around the world.

Vizio will have North American name and likeness rights from the star for advertising, product packaging, Web, promotions, public relations and point-of-sale materials. The partnership will also allow Knowles to participate in the design and performance characteristics of new products from Vizio’s expanding line of audio, visual and Web-enabled products, the company said.

“Beyoncé is in an elite class of entertainers who are globally known and respected for their talent on stage and in front of the camera,” said Laynie Newsome, co-founder and sales and marketing communications VP of Vizio. “We believe both Vizio and Beyoncé are closely aligned as American success stories who have redefined the rules in our respective industries.”

Meanwhile, Newsome said Vizio will look to expand distribution behind its new XVT Pro series to custom installers and integrators as well as assisted selling floor retailers with trained sales associates who can communicate and explain the technology benefits to consumers.

Newsome cited hhgregg, BrandsMart and Magnolia as examples of the types of accounts ideally suited to the next phase of the Vizio rollout strategy.

To help reach the new channels, Vizio is also exploring partnerships with distributors working in the custom A/V area as well as with key buying groups, she said.

“We sell now to Nebraska Furniture Mart, and we are looking at putting in their Kansas City location a Vizio Concept Store. We would like to do this in part because we are often asked, `When is Vizio going to have its own store?’ That doesn’t mean we want to become a retailer, but we want to have a location where people can come in and understand the merits of all this latest technology, because we are evolving so quickly.”

Although the approach is a significant leap beyond Vizio’s initial strategy of working only with a handful of warehouse clubs, national CE chains and mass merchants, Newsome said the company is constantly expanding its base of manufacturing resources in order to meet the swelling demand for Vizio products.

“We believe that even the most affluent consumer appreciates value and wants to save money, and that does not exclude what they want from the latest technology,” Newsome said. “Our value premise and promise to the consumer is still true, even across different tiers of product. We just want to continue to raise the bar.”

As for products in the new XVT Pro line, Vizio will focus on a range of advanced TVs incorporating its latest advances, including LED backlighting with Smart Dimming technology, 3D TV support and built-in HD wireless content access.

All XVT Pro HDTVs will include the Vizio Internet Apps (VIA) streaming Internet video access system that is enabled by built-in HD wireless (802.11n dual-band) and wired networking, a Bluetooth universal remote control with sliding QWERTY keyboard, and interactive setup video to guide users in setting up connections.

3D sets will utilize Sensio 3D technology that delivers 3D content over conventional 2D infrastructure. Sets were designed to work with optional XpanD active-shutter glasses (sold separately).

The 3D effect is delivered in FullHD 1080p. The sets produce 3D images from Sensio-encoded material on conventional DVD and Blu-ray players, as well as from future distribution channels such as pay per view, video on demand, DTV and HDTV broadcasts, the company said.

Highlights of the XVT Pro line include a 72-inch 480Hz SPS TruLED FullHD 3D with 480 zones of Smart Dimming technology, built-in wireless HDMI and VIA with HD wireless networking. The set will ship in August at a $3,499 suggested retail.

Also part of the line is a 58-inch Razor LED with Smart Dimming “cinema display” featuring a 21:9 aspect ratio that enables film enthusiasts to view full-screen 2.35:1 films (2,560 by 1,080 pixels) without black bars.

The set also includes built-in wireless HDMI and VIA with HD wireless networking.

The XVTPRO550SV is a 55-inch 480Hz SPS TruLED FullHD 3D HDTV with 120 zones of Smart Dimming, built-in wireless HDMI and VIA with HD wireless networking. It will ship in August at a $2,499 suggested retail.

The 47-inch XVTPRO470SV, at a $1,999 suggested retail, will feature 480Hz SPS TruLED, FullHD 3D, 160 zones of Smart Dimming, built-in wireless HDMI, and VIA with HD wireless networking.