In a decision that was clearly made by people who have never be outside of an office building, Sharp will be branding select models of their LCDs as Elite, a name till now associated with only the best of Pioneer’s product lines. “Best” as in the top-of-the-line vaunted KURO plasmas.

When told the Elite name would be put on LCDs, fans of the KURO plasmas (that also happened to write this article) responded to the news with “Awww…” and “Ewww, really?”

But perhaps there is more to this story than meets the eye.

One of the lead designers for the KURO program was Director of Display Engineering, playwright, and friend of the Website, Josh Kairoff. After leaving Pioneer during the unpleasantness that was the end of the Pioneer plasma program, Josh was hired by Sharp as Product Sales Engineer. Now, just 1,080 days later, Sharp announces they’re branding some of their high-end models as Elite. Coincidence? Doubtful. There couldn’t possibly be any other explanation.

Reached for comment, Dr. Kairoff replied, “Oh my,” before finding something better to do.

Elite LCDs – What we actually know

Sharponeer LCD

Here’s what we do know thanks to an industry source. The new line of LCDs will be sold by Sharp, via Pioneer Elite dealers exclusively. This marketing-sales relationship takes “name branding” to a whole new level. No non-Elite Pioneer or Sharp dealers will have access to the new models.

It won’t be the full Sharp product line, only select models maxing out at 70-inches. The Elite LCDs will be differentiated from other Sharp models with a different look, the Elite badges and different performance features. What performance features, we don’t yet know. All service, customer and otherwise, will be handled by Sharp USA.

Thankfully to all videophiles, the storied KURO name is not being used, just Elite. There will be no other Pioneer branding. What is not known as of now is if the displays will still have Sharp branding anywhere.

The first models will ship in June, but no other pricing or model numbers are available yet.

Here’s the full press release:


Mahwah, NJ and Long Beach, CA January 27, 2011 – Sharp Electronics Corporation, the U.S. subsidiary of Japan’s Sharp Corporation, and Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. today announced that Sharp will be granted license of Pioneer’s “Elite” brand for a line of high-end flat panel displays to be introduced in the U.S. and Canada this year.

Pioneer markets a line of high-end audio/video receivers, Blu-ray Disc players and speakers under the Elite brand, which enjoys a substantial high-end customer following and a strong, established dealer network. By marketing an LCD TV line under the Elite brand, Sharp will expand the distribution of its premium large-scale TVs. In turn, the addition of a line of large-screen LCD TVs will complement Pioneer’s Elite home theater offerings. The Elite line of LCD TVs, which will be jointly marketed by Sharp and Pioneer, will be available through Pioneer’s authorized Elite dealer network.

“As a leader in large screen LCD TV, we are excited to collaborate with Pioneer to bring a high-end LCD TV to the Elite consumer,” said John Herrington, President of Sharp Electronics Marketing Company of America.

“The Elite brand is highly respected in the high end market and Sharp can deliver the quality and innovation that Elite customers demand.””Adding a line of high-end flat panel TVs fills a market need in the
industry and will help reinforce the strength of a complete Elite home theater offering,” said Russ Johnston, Executive VP, Home Electronics Department, Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. “With its cutting edge LCD
technology and unmatched production capabilities, Sharp is an important strategic collaborator that will deliver a whole new dimension to the large-screen home theater experience.”

—Geoffrey Morrison

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