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Zenith Restarts Brand-Revitalization Effort

NEW YORK -Zenith took the wraps off its latest brand makeover and unveiled an extensive new product line during a press conference, here, just prior to CES.

Now 100 percent owned by LG Electronics and out of bankruptcy, the company said it plans to restart its stillborn brand-revitalization effort, originally started over three years ago, focusing its appeal to a younger and hipper audience as the new “Digital Zenith.”

The effort will be used to both present Zenith’s innovative digital products and promote those efforts with extensive brand adverting and promotion.

Company executives said LG has committed $100 million to a three-year brand revitalization effort, which will include major television advertising in addition to Internet, print and radio spots.

The company’s new ad agency conducted consumer studies that indicated a need to appeal to two core consumer segments, which it calls “mouse potatoes” and “fast forwarders.” The former is comprised of techno-savvy young, single adults, and the latter are essentially mouse potatoes who have gotten a little older, richer, and are now married with children.

Among its efforts, Zenith will look to support the production of special HDTV events on CBS, Zenith marketing VP Patrick Kilroy told TWICE. The company had worked on supporting a major video-based network program in HDTV format for the 2001 season, but the network later decided to produce it in NTSC only.

Instead of competing with other CE brands in sporting arenas, the company is also sponsoring museum and art gallery exhibitions with Zenith video display equipment and funding. Kilroy said sponsorship of a national tour by a major recording artist is also being explored.

In creating the new brand identity, Zenith will stress its digital innovation, keying on a range of products, including many it has shown or discussed in the past and is now preparing to bring to market.

These include a slate of new video-display products, highlighted by a 60W-inch HDTV-capable plasma display panel with 1,024 x 768 resolution. It will carry an estimated price of $27,999 when it ships later in the year.

Other plasma display panels on the schedule include a 42W-inch model ($6,995 due in the fourth quarter) and a 36-inch model ($6,499 due in the summer).

Wayne Park, Zenith new product development senior VP, said his company will also offer a 60W-inch 16:9 LCD-based rear-projection HDTV monitorwith native 720p scan-rate capability. The television will ship in the fourth quarter at a $5,999 suggested retail.

The company also plans a number of direct-view LCD televisions, including a 22.1W-inch 16:9 model with 1,024 x 768 resolution ($4,699, due in the fall), a 20.1-inch 4:3 model EDTV monitor with 600 x 480 resolution ($4,299, due in the spring), and the currently available 15.1-inch 4:3 HDTV monitor ($1,999).

The company will this summer add a 61W-inch CRT-based integrated rear-projection HDTV that will join the current 64W-inch and 65W-inch models at a $5,999 retail.

The new integrated set will include a “second-generation” 8-VSB tuner chip, which Zenith said will give improved performance from earlier models.

Also planned are three HDTV rear-projection monitors, each of which is a 16:9 widescreen model that will display the 1080i and 480p native-scan formats. These will include a 65-inch ($4,999, summer 2001) model, a 61-inch ($3,999, early 2001) model and a 56-inch ($2,999, summer 2001) model.

Not to be left behind in the race to build the flat-screen direct-view TV market, Zenith said it will offer three HDTV-capable 4:3 models starting in the second quarter. Screen sizes will include a 36-inch model ($2,299), a 32-inch model ($1,799) and a 27-inch model ($1,299).

To link with the all of the new HDTV monitors, Zenith will offer a lineup of DTV terrestrial set-top decoder boxes, some of which will receive both off-air terrestrial digital broadcasts, and both standard and HDTV satellite services from DirecTV.

The first model will be a terrestrial ATSC/DirecTV version, due in the spring at $699. It will employ a first-generation 8-VSB terrestrial decoding chipset.

The set-top will be followed by a more advanced version with a second-generation 8-VSB decoder in the fall.

Zenith executives have also targeted the fourth quarter for the introduction of another version incorporating a hard-disk drive capable of recording HDTV signals. Presumably, the introduction would depend on the selection of a copy-protection solution. All boxes will output 1080i, 720p, 480p and 480i formats.

In DVD, Zenith will make an innovation statement with the fall release of a recording deck, at a $2,499 suggested retail, based on the Pioneer-developed DVD-RW recordable disc format.

Zenith said its DVD recorder will also output progressive-scan signals for use with EDTV-capable displays. Discs produced in the deck are said to be compatible with most DVD video players and DVD-ROM PCs in the market. All new Zenith DVD players and recorders will also play back CDs with the MP3-encoded music file format.