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Mitsubishi Upbeat On HDTV Demand In Q4

HDTV market fundamentals, for the industry in general and Mitsubishi in particular, should be strong enough to handle the increased demand during the fall season, according to Frank DeMartin, marketing VP of Mitsubishi’s Audio/Video Division.

DeMartin, who joined Mitsubishi in the spring and attended CEDIA Expo, discussed a variety of HDTV-related issues at his company’s press conference during the show and, separately, with TWICE.

Mitsubishi showed CEDIA Expo goers its previously-announced selection of digital cable ready HDTVs, as well as other products.

DeMartin predicted that the industry “will ship 1.2 million micro-display [HDTV] units by the end of our fiscal year, March 31, 2005.” He also noted that Mitsubishi is pleased and impressed with consumer reaction to the integrated digital cable ready lineup that began shipping July 1.

“Under the FCC mandate [which said that half of every manufacturers’ big-screen TV line had to include digital cable ready tuners this year], 68 percent of our sales have been with integrated tuners. We are taking this technology very seriously,” DeMartin noted. A company spokesman added that many of Mitsubishi sales are DLP models.

“Our brand can support premium and value-added product,” DeMartin said. “We are in the fast lane when it comes to digital cable ready.”

Concerning general industry conditions on pricing, inventories, programming and sales training when it comes to HDTV, DeMartin is optimistic.

“Micro display inventories are a little tight now,” he maintained, “but shortages of certain models are easing in the industry and not as difficult” as last year. “I’d say the situation is fairly comfortable.”

With expectations earlier this year about possible oversupply of HDTV by the fourth quarter, due to expanded lines by established players and new suppliers entering the market, many expected serious price cuts by the fall. DeMartin said, “There is always some price erosion in TV, so there will be some in HDTV during the fourth quarter.”

Specifically he said, “In plasma there has been talk of eroding price points, but it may not amount to much” and in other HDTV formats “there will be a little price erosion, and some oversupply” but nothing dramatic.

When asked about the technical expertise of their retailers, DeMartin candidly said, “It depends upon the retailer. Some know the technology and do very well. They qualify customers and provide them with choices and options. Others don’t do as well, and we must help them.” He added, Mitsubishi has “50 trainers in the field, who are also in sales. They go back to their customers on a regular basis to keep them up to speed.”

And DeMartin volunteered that “there is enough HDTV programming now,” which is vital to selling the hardware. “The wild card was always cable. Now they are active in promoting HDTV. Two years ago the response [from the cable industry] was, ‘Huh?’ “

He said the cable industry “is now heavily promoting HDTV, and are using it to battle the satellite business.” All of this helps build consumer demand and “helps retailers demonstrate HDTV on the sales floor, with programming from satellite, cable and [over the air] broadcasters.”