Sony Spins Restructuring To Underscore Long-Term Commitment To TV Category
Mike Fasulo, president of the newly renamed Sony North America, said this week that reports of the “spinoffs” of Sony’s TV and Video and Audio businesses have been greatly exaggerated.
Despite changes in business structure, Sony electronic products aren’t going anywhere, so you can feel comfortable buying that new Bravia or XBR TV this year.
More on the closing of Sony’s stores, this year’s Triluminos display technology and plans for high dynamic range (HDR) metadata firmware updates after the break:
Sony, Fasulo said, has no intention of selling off or licensing its TV or video and audio businesses to anyone else. The companies have been “split out” as separate wholly owned subsidiaries for flexibility, autonomy and accountability and are not “spinoffs,” with other equity interests involved. Earlier reports of the “spinoffs” resulted from a mistranslation of the new business structure, according to a company spokesman.
Since Sony Corporation Chairman Kaz Hirai revealed last month that the company’s Video and Audio business would follow the “split out” model used on the TV business last year, questions have emerged about the long-term commitment to consumer electronics.
Fasulo said emphatically that Sony remains committed to TVs and Video and Audio electronics, and will even continue to adhere to Hirai’s earlier “One Sony” directive aimed at breaking down internal boundaries to derive marketing synergies across Sony’s diverse electronics and entertainment interests.
More specifically, Faslo said, the company remains committed to developing and expanding the premium ends of those businesses – a strategy which has helped Sony’s U.S. electronics business attain its best financial results in a decade.
“Our business is thriving in 4K and it will only continue to get better – the product and quality will continue to get better,” Fasulo declared.
Those efforts have also forced the company to scale back some of its market outreach to reduce expenses while working closer with retail partners. The company announced it will close eight of its 10 remaining Sony Stores, leaving only New York City and Los Angeles flagship locations. At the same time, the company is expanding its Sony Experience store in-store shops by some 100 locations. The branded in-store merchandising departments are currently found in 400 Best Buy outlets as well as other select dealers around the country. The in-store Experience shops are maintained and merchandised by Sony and manned by dedicated Sony-trained sales associates employed by Sony’s retailer partners.
At the same time product assortments have narrowed to save cost while enhancing focus. TV models are designed using a global product development strategy that sometimes overlooks the preferences of regional markets. As an example, this year’s top-end XBR C 930 and C 940 sets incorporate Sony’s advanced on-board sound systems with wide side-mounted speaker arrays. In some Asian and European markets this is viewed as desirable, but in the U.S. it is sometimes considered redundant for the target clientele who have home theater systems with separate audio components.
Yet, the sets offer Sony’s best and latest picture performance technologies, including current benchmarks for wider color gamut and HDR. Sony is a major contributor to the 4K UHD Blu-ray specification process that is soon expected to be delivered in final form. Cognizant of that, the new XBR C Series sets were designed to accept firmware updates to receive the metadata for additional HDR information to be encoded on forthcoming 4K UHD Blu-ray discs.
The effort is also evident in the recently unveiled 2015 XBR TV lineup, which offers top-end XBR C 930 and 940 Series models including the next evolution of Triluminos display panels with 10-bit processing for a wider color gamut, as well as LED backlighting and high dynamic range (HDR) for greater detail in bright whites and deep black areas of an image.
For background, Sony’s Triluminos display technology has evolved over the past several years, but has always been focused on delivering a wide color gamut and picture processing. Initial implementations used an expensive red/green/blue LED backlighting system and evolved to include QD Vision’s ColorIQ quantum dot nanocrystal technology and processing. Last year, the technology shifted to a proprietary and more cost-effective wide gamut panel and processing, which continues in the 2015 line.
Lacking completed standards for 4K UHD Blu-ray by production time, current top-end XBR models were designed to deliver a wide color gamut from content that was not produced with additional color information. They will also accept firmware updates that could meet new specs once they’ve been determined. But lacking necessary final spec information, such updates have not yet been planned or announced, and are not guaranteed.
Philip Jones, Sony TV product information manager, told HD Guru “there may be something on that Blu-ray spec that is beyond what the TV can do. It may include additional performance that is beyond a 2015 TV. But the goal is when you look at your 2015 TV, if you play a Blu-ray on here with 4K UHD or wide color gamut or HDR information, it is going to look better than what it does today. It will evolve. “
Jones said it is impossible to say at this point if the processing Sony has built into the new sets will be powerful enough to drive the metadata from the incomplete 4K UHD Blu-ray spec. Although, he pointed out that in the past Sony has provided an upgrade path for products that require new firmware and sometimes even hardware component replacements to meet evolving standards.
“We try to our best to plan for the future,” Jones explained. “We have to look over the fence beyond manufacturing, into broadcasting and distribution, because we are involved in all of that.”
Jones said that this year all of Sony’s 4K Ultra HDTVs were designed to look at incoming 4K Ultra HD signals to indentify the bit rate and intelligently determine the correct processing to apply to it.
“This year, we expect you are going to get 100Mbps Blu-ray, between 50-125Mbps from our download service, Netflix and Amazon using H. 265 and YouTube using VP9 that is going to vary between 7 Mbps and 15 Mbps,” said Jones. “The goal was to deliver a TV that can give the best performance with what the TV is given not provide for [the maximum level] of performance a spec can give.”
Toshi Okuda, Sony North America deputy president, said Sony is a member of the UHD Alliance, which is a multi-company, multi-industry coalition charged with finding consensus on a workable, competitive framework for next-generation standards involving bit-depth, color gamut, HDR, 3D audio sound and other performance criteria.
Okuda said that to work, the alliance will need individual companies to put their individual interests aside to work toward a healthy outcome.
“At the end of the day, we will have to rely on each other,” Okuda told us, adding that Sony’s challenge will be to find a single person to represent the divergent interests within Sony, let alone the industry as a whole.
by Greg Tarr
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