Despite the hype over HDTV quality that permeates retail showrooms, an Enhanced Definition TV (EDTV) level display —Panasonic's PT-42PD3-P — was one of the top selling plasma display panels at retail last year.
Ed Wolff, Panasonic display group VP, noted that the PT-42PD3-P — a second generation 42W-inch widescreen plasma panel — excelled behind one of the top contrast ratios (3,000:1) in the industry, and a brightness level (780 candelas) that made the product standout, even by HD standards.
"When somebody is interested in a plasma, they tend to go with the one that looks the best. It's not necessarily all the ancillary features. In this case it really revolves around how good is the picture," he said.
In truth, in many locations the 42W-inch widescreen panel had little or no HDTV-level competition with which to compare, and Panasonic's 50W-inch HDTV level panel shipped later in the year.
But the combination of strong picture performance, competitive price and an exciting form factor helped generate retail traffic and ancillary high-ticket sales.
"We were one of the first out with the product and got good placement," Wolff noted. "There was a certain level of success that dealers experienced, and success breeds success."
In fact, the Panasonic panel was a key contributor to the decision of a number of regional and national retailers to add flat panel TV merchandising departments to their store planograms this year.
"Last year, the industry sold 25,000 plasma units, and this year we expect that to grow to 60,000 to 70,000," Wolff said. "We were able to sell a lot of [PT-42PDD3-P] units without being in a national chain, although that will change this year."
To tell the story, Panasonic supports the panel with "a flat and thin concept" national advertising campaign.
For the year ahead, Panasonic has cut the price on the PT-42PD3-P to $5,999 and will introduce a 720p HDTV level 42W-inch model (PT-42HD4-P) at $7,999. Wolff thinks the business will be evenly split between EDTV and HDTV.
"There is a tendency to look for HD, because that is the buzzword," Wolff said. "So we look at the introduction of the HD panel to have some impact on the ED. But surprisingly there is still strong demand for the ED unit. It's $2,000 less. Most people, when they look at them side by side will note the difference, but it gives them an interesting choice to make."