Recently in town for Samsung's Global Road Show, Sang Heung Shin, Samsung's color TV sales and marketing team visual display division senior VP, met with TWICE to discuss the company's growing plasma and LCD TV market, its expansion of DLP rear-projection products and plans for future technologies, including Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) displays.
Shin said Samsung is currently focused on expanding its share of the plasma and LCD TV flat panel markets, adjusting prices to keep pace with the market and adding new screen sizes in LCD TV.
The company now plans to bring a 57W-inch ($19,999 suggested retail) LCD screen size, in limited quanitity, to the United States by the end of the year, and continues to make advances in DLP rear-projection systems to large screen sizes. In that effort, Samsung showcased a new 71W-inch DLP screen size with 1,080p picture quality and the road show, and said it sees 1,080p capability taking on growing importance as the market evolves.
At the same time, the company has brought a new technological edge to the established direct-view CRT category, with the delivery of a 30W-inch “SlimFit” product that delivers CRT picture performance in a product with a significantly reduced cabinet depth.
What follows is a Q&A interview with Shin, assessing the U.S. and international advanced TV display markets.
TWICE:How are you staying on top of the aggressive price cutting the industry is seeing now in LCD and plasma TV products?
Shin: As you mentioned, we have seen some big price drops recently, but we are competing well. This year we have seen industry price levels drop below $2,000 [in 42W-inch plasma models], but our leader piece is still selling well at $2,199. Still, we have prepared internally to lower prices to follow the market — probably in the first part of next year.
TWICE: As margins continue to erode in plasma, will you begin to shift your emphasis more toward large-screen LCD TV models?
Shin: Yes. Today, you will see our 46W-inch LCD TV in the marketplace, and we have a range of LCD product lines in screen sizes from 15- to 46W inches in the U.S.A., now. We are selling LCD models of up to 57W inches in our domestic and European markets, and that screen size also will be coming to the United States shortly. We have also shown that LCD models of up 82W inches are possible. But pricing for the very large screen sizes will remain quite high.
We continue to support a wide variety of display formats, to address consumer needs. For screen sizes over 60W inches, up to 71W inches, we are offering DLP rear-projection models as more affordable solutions. Between 40W- to 60W inches we have PDP, and up to 46W-inches we have LCD TV.
TWICE: How are you finding demand for flat-panel TV outside of the United States?
Shin: Surprisingly, the European market is trending even more rapidly toward flat-panel TV than in the United States. We could see global demand for both PDP and LCD of more than 20 million units this year. Probably next year there will be another 50 percent jump up to 30 million units total.
TWICE: What will that mean for the CRT product lines you are selling?
Shin: There is a lot of pressure on big-screen CRT TV between the 30W- and 34W-inch screen sizes from LCD. That's why we responded with our SlimFit [narrow cabinet CRT] CRT products. Although it is still CRT, it is quite a different-looking product.
TWICE: What is the target audience for the SlimFit product line?
Shin: It has been appealing to those people who recognize the picture quality benefits of CRT, but are willing to pay a premium for a thinner cabinet. Right now we are selling more than 20,000 units per month in the United States. We expect to expand that product line next year with smaller screen sizes, down to 20 inches (4:3 analog). We gave up conventional curved-tube CRT models in the U.S. two years ago, and we would like to recover that market share in CRT with SlimFit. We are able to get a retail price of $999 for our [30W-inch] SlimFit product compared with pricing on a normal 30W-inch flat-tube model of around $500.
TWICE: Do you expect pricing pressure to reach SlimFit products next year?
Shin: I don't see any big price decreases [in SlimFit TVs] coming in the near future. These are unusual products that fill a specific demand, and technology-wise they are quite different than conventional CRT.
TWICE: Where are those products manufactured?
Shin: We have SlimFit tube factories in Korea and Mexico, and we decided recently to also produce those picture tubes in Europe. Final assembly for the United States is in Mexico.
TWICE: What future video display technologies do you see coming from Samsung?
Shin: Internally, we are preparing all kinds of formats. In the case of OLED [organic light-emitting diode] displays, there are many different solutions. By 2007 you may start to see some of these technologies come into the marketplace. We have developed a prototype 40W-inch OLED, but the issue we must address now is productivity. You will likely first see OLED from us in smaller screen sizes of around 10 inches.
In terms of picture quality OLED is now very good, but cost of production is high. We must stabilize our production processes before we bring these products to market.
TWICE: What is your strategy for building brand share in the U.S?
Shin: We will maintain our brand advertising campaigns to maintain our brand image. In the United States we currently enjoy about 15 percent market share in color television, and that is without selling conventional CRT TV. We continue to rank highly in market share in our key categories. We are competing with Philips and Sharp in LCD TV, with Panasonic in PDP and with Sony in microdisplay. Our market share has ranged between one, two and three at various times.
TWICE: How would you rate your relationship with Sony in your new joint LCD TV factory?
Shin: I think it is doing quite well. Sony is a very good partner, but at the same time we are competing in the marketplace.