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TV Makers Gear Up for Olympics
May 24, 2004
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With 3 months to go before the opening of the Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, makers of high-performance flat-screen and large-screen television sets and new personal computers equipped with audiovisual functions are waging a heated sales battle.

The makers are promoting "reasonably priced" and "high value-added" items.

Depending on the outcome of the competition, which comes amid the summer bonus shopping season, a change in the market share held by each manufacturer is possible. Some analysts have expressed concern about a slowdown in sales following the Olympics special procurement. South Korean and Chinese manufacturers also are expected to join in the sales battle, raising the stakes for Japanese makers.

Industry leader Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., has launched an offensive over product prices and functionality in its pitch for flat-screen and TVs. Matsushita is said to be planning to market in June plasma 37-, 42- and 50-in TV models as a new series for its flat-screen TV model Viera as well as 10 liquid crystal display (LCD) models measuring from 14 to 32 in.

Matsushita has improved the image quality of its high-end TV models, increasing the number of colors they can display by more than three times to 3.62 billion colors.

In addition, it has become the first maker in the industry to produce an LCD model that has built-in DVD recorders. Its strategy is to hold down prices and market high-value models to appeal to consumers to differentiate itself from other companies.

Competitors are taking on Matsushita by introducing a succession of new products. Sony Corp. started selling a 55-in plasma TV, while Sharp Corp. reportedly plans to market a 45-in LCD TV.

Domestic shipments of flat-screen TVs, including plasma and LCD sets, are expected to increase rapidly to about 2.85 million units this year, up 93 percent from last year, due to a lift in demand related to the upcoming Olympics, according to industry estimates. Sales of flat-screen TVs are expected to surpass those of cathode-ray tube (CRT) TVs for the first time this year.

Prices of hot products range from about 400,000 yen (approx. U.S. $3,552) to 600,000 yen (approx. $5,238) for a 42-in plasma TV set and about 400,000 (approx. $3,552) yen to 500,000 yen (approx. $4,440) for a 32-in LCD set. Industry sources said the average price of 26-in or larger flat-screen and large-screen sets had dropped about 110,000 yen (approx. $977) in the past year.

But price declines likely will accelerate if competition intensifies due to the rush of new products.

Sony has marketed on the PC market a new Vaio series featuring a merger with audiovideo functions. Meanwhile, NEC Corp. boasts the top domestic share for PCs and has installed on its desktop computers functions capable of automatically videotaping TV programs.

Reflecting a trend for AV PCs, other makers, including Fujitsu Ltd. and Toshiba Corp., have reinforced AV functions in their PCs.

AV PCs overlap such digital household electrical appliances as flat-screen TV and DVD recorders in function, creating a new battle in which TV and PCs fight over market share, and the contest is becoming complicated.

Expectations are high for flat-screen and large-screen TVs and personal computers to be engines for the nation's economy.

But drops in prices, due to fierce competition, for digital cameras, which enjoyed as much popularity as flat-screen TVs, have been followed by drops in earnings for some makers. (The Yomiuri Shimbun)

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