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Vizio Readies Up-Market Counter Attack

New York — Faced with a counter attack from first-tier flat-panel TV competitors moving into the discount store and warehouse club chains with more price aggressive models, Vizio will retaliate this summer and fall with high-performance offerings that the company said will maintain its strong value proposition in better-featured products.

“As competitors implement different tiers of products, led primarily by Sony and Samsung who are moving more into the lower-end value segment while maintaining a high-end performance segment, we have decided to respond to that with our own high-end segment which is still very value focused but also very high performance,” said John Schindler, Vizio new product development VP.

Vizio’s high-performance line, called the Extreme Vizio Technology (XVT) series, includes 42- and 47-inch 1080p LCD TVs with 120Hz frame-rate technology and motion-estimation motion compensation (MEMC) processing, which Vizio calls “Smooth Motion Video.” The LCD models include the SV420XVT ($1,499 suggested retail) and SV47XVT ($1,899), which are both slated to start shipping this month.

They feature SRS Labs’ TruSurround SX audio processing and are listed as having 6,500:1 contrast ratios. In addition, Vizio will supply an optional compact add-on 5.1-channel surround sound system, called the SV5.1 Upgrade kit, which adds 5.1-channel surround sound functionality with the inclusion of rear-channel speakers and a wireless subwoofer.

The XVT series will also include a 50-inch 1080p HD plasma set (model VP505XVT) equipped with

Silicon Optix’s Reon Hollywood Quality Video (HQV) video processing, designed to up-convert and clean up standard-definition video while de-interlacing certain high-definition signals.

The plasma set will ship this September at a $1,699.99 suggested retail price and is said to feature improved brightness performance over prior plasma offerings. The contrast ratio is rated at 30,000:1. Vizio is also extending the panel half-life expectancy from 60,000 hours to 100,000 hours. The unit includes a brandy-wine-colored speaker grille, side-access game port, HDMI v1.3 inputs and a supplied 6-foot HDMI cable.

Schindler said the XVT line is being positioned for “trendsetter” customers and is expected to be distributed though warehouse club partners, including Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s and CE retail accounts including Circuit City and Sears. The company is also exploring expanding distribution on the series into select regional retail chains.

In other new product plans, Vizio said it is adding a mainstream VL series LCD line for warehouse club distribution with 32- and 37-inch 1080p LCD TVs. Pricing for the new models is said to be close to that of Vizio’s current 720p units. The sets will feature a dark wood-like bezel, which Vizio calls Java, accented with a gold trim and a full HD logo. Pricing is expected to range $799 to $849 for the 37-inch model and $599 to $649 for the 32 inch model.

The 32- and 37-inch full HD models are expected to ship to retail starting in September and October, respectively.

Starting in October, Vizio also plans to add a line of what it calls “Eco Friendly” TVs, which are said to operate with 35 percent to 45 percent less power than traditional LCD TVs of comparable size. The first model in the series will be 32-inches, Schindler said. Vizio said it cut power consumption on the sets by reducing the number of CCF lamps from six to four, while maintaining the same brightness using a new screen film technology.

Starting in the first half of 2009, Vizio said it expects to adopt much of the technology for more models in its line.

In late August, Vizio also plans to ship its first monitor tailored for dedicated PC users. The 26-inch widescreen VMM monitor display is expected to see a $449 street retail, and features HDMI inputs and reduced brightness and higher resolution than typical IT displays, Schindler said.

Vizio will sell the product through warehouse clubs, and will also look to expand distribution into office supply chains, he said.