Large-screen TVs fail to excite
There have been three launches in the large screen television category - 75 to 84 inches - during the past two months. Yet, Indian consumers seem unlikely to immediately jump into the big-screen home entertainment category.
According to market sources, there has not been any real sale for most recent launches in the large screen category so far. However, companies are hopeful. Samsung Electronics, which launched a 75-inch smart TV priced at Rs 750,000 on October 23, said it aimed to sell about 1,000 units over the next 12 months. But it is yet to sell any.
LG has launched a much-hyped 84-inch 3D TV priced at Rs 17 lakh (Rs 1.7 million) and says it has got two bookings and 10 enquiries so far. The product was unveiled on November 1. Japanese electronics giant Sony announced the launch of its 84-inch 4TV on October 11 but is yet to do so for retail sales. "The product would be available in the market by the end of November. Sony is already pre-booking for this product," said Kenichiro Hibi, managing director, Sony India.
Panasonic was the first company to enter the large screen market, in 2007 with an 85-inch TV, currently priced at Rs 20 lakh (Rs 2 million). However, the company has been able to sell just 125 units in India in five years. Panasonic's 103-inch TV, priced at Rs 28 lakh (Rs 2.8 million), got a better response. It has so far sold 275 units of these since the launch in December 2009.
But the fate for the world's largest TV, a 152-inch from Panasonic that comes with a hefty price tag of Rs 3.5 crore (Rs 35 million), is yet to get a buyer. It was launched in December 2010. "This is not a mass market game. The large screen TV market is small but niche. We are not looking at a volume game," said Manish Sharma, managing director (consumer product division), Panasonic India.
Such big screen TVs require a certain viewing distance, without which the experience would not be enjoyable, said Sharma, noting these aren't considered a living room entertainment product. "Mostly, our 103-inch TV is being used in corporate board rooms, clubs, large lobbies, and personal theatres at home," he added.
These days, people are establishing theatres at the basements of bungalows and houses. "These large screen TVs are actually bought by these people. Institutional sales are a large chunk of it," Sharma said.
According to independent brand expert and author N Chandramouli, "All over the world, 'bigger' is one way to show how you're better than the one next door. In India, it has become an unfortunate way that we show our social worth. In the TV segment, there is little visible and automatically evident differentiation to the 'home visitor' than size. TV brands are exploiting this factor to increase sales."
LG Electronics India's vice-president (marketing), L K Gupta, says gradually people would put these large screen TVs at their living rooms. "This is not a volume game. We are targeting a niche consumer segment with these products. The response so far is really impressive," he said, adding LG was targeting about Rs 1,000 crore (Rs 10 billion) from sales of 3D TVs in India (large screen TVs are a part of the 3D market) in calendar year 2012, with sales of 250,000 of these sets, which would be 45 per cent of the total in this segment.
"We are seeing a healthy consumer interest in the 40-inch and above flat panel TV (FPTV) segment and expect this to be a major growth driver next year. This year, we expect this segment to contribute 12-13 per cent of overall industry FPTV sales," said Mahesh Krishnan, vice-president, Samsung India.
Samsung currently sells 26 models of flat panel TVs in the 40-inch and above screen segment.
Interestingly, California state legislators had, in 2009, mooted a regulation to ban such large screen TVs because of their huge power consumption. They had proposed to ban sale of large screen TVs by 2011.