Japanese TV Makers Bet on SuperHD as World Cup Looms

Japanese TV Makers Bet on Super-HD as World Cup Looms

June 8, 2014
Sales of big-screen TVs with super-high definition 4K technology are picking up in Japan, and their fatter profit margins are offering a lifeline to one-time industry giants Sony and Panasonic.

TOKYO -- With a hopeful eye on the approaching World Cup, Japan's embattled TV makers are hoping the key to their rescue can be found on the second floor of Bic Camera's downtown Tokyo outlet.

Sales of big-screen televisions with super-high definition 4K technology are picking up at the nationwide electronics retailer, and their fatter profit margins are offering a lifeline to one-time industry giants Sony (IW 1000/48) and Panasonic (IW 1000/41).

Retailers report that demand for the cutting-edge technology -- with four times the resolution of standard HD sets -- has surged as sports fans shell out big bucks with the football World Cup kicking off in Brazil on Thursday.

"Many customers are coming to buy a new TV set because of the World Cup," said Daisuke Kogure, visual products floor manager at Bic Camera's Yurakucho outlet.

In a corner of the store devoted to 4K screens, crystal-clear images of footballers and flowers show off the new technology.

"Even though commercial broadcasting is still to come, customers are still interested in seeing photo images and movies on 4K television screens," Kogure added.

Sales of 4K-equipped TV sets remain a small fraction of sales of LCD flat screens. And while the average price of 4K TVs has dropped to 330,000 yen ($3,300) from 491,000 yen a year ago, the technology is still expensive and offers limited viewing options.

"The success of 4K television will depend on the richness of its content," said Eiji Mori, analyst with Tokyo-based research company BCN. "So far what's available is just test broadcasting, and it's unclear when private broadcasters will start supplying 4K-quality TV programmes."

The planned rollout of next-generation 8K technology -- offering quadruple the resolution of 4K -- for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo could also hold sales back, Mori said.

"Broadcasters have to decide whether investing in cameras and editing equipment for 4K programs can pay off in just a few years," he said. "There is also a question about whether consumers will choose 4K televisions when they buy one with a 50 inch-display or larger."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014

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