Magazine article Marketing

War of Words on Wide Screen

Magazine article Marketing

War of Words on Wide Screen

Article excerpt

Toshiba marketing director Mark Todd's unenthusiastic report on wide screen TV angers rivals, says Mat Toor

Toshiba marketing director Mark Todd is the man European consumer electronics firms love to hate.

For the past 18 months he has been pouring cold water on the the high hopes that firms like Philips, Thomson and Nokia have invested in wide screen television.

Now he has compiled a report laying down his predicted uptake of what he sees as an "extremely niche product". And it reveals that broadcasters have "no plans" to produce programmes for wide screen TVs.

Wide screen--also known as 16:9 or "cinema-style"--is the first step toward full blown high definition television. Its supporters say it offers a more "natural" viewing experience that is particularly effective for sports and films.

The first sets arrived on the market last year, but at 3500 [pounds] apiece--and with a massive 36" screen size -- were hardly a mass market proposition. Now Philips, Nokia and Thomson (through its Ferguson brand) are promoting newer, smaller sets costing between 1200 [pounds] and 1400 [pounds]. They claim that by the end of this year the market will be worth 10m [pound] and will grow rapidly.

But Todd argues that the Europeans have jumped the gun. He claims their approach has been technology rather than consumer-led.

"I don't want to be poo-poohing wide screen because we make and sell it in Japan," says Todd. "But if we're going to make a success of it we must focus on the consumer. We must be market-led and we must have empathy with the other broadcaster? What are they looking for? Because hardware without software is utter nonsense."

It is difficult to see, however, what from that "empathy" can take. The broadcasters Todd spoke to--among them Greg Dyke and new ITV chief Andrew Quinn -- all appear to agree current product launches are "premature" and that everyone should wait the mid-90s before even thinking about wide screen. And that is cold comfort for those trying to market wide screen in 1992.

Some of the downbeat responses may have been provoked by the forecast of wide screen TV sales given by Todd.

In his assessment -- which he claims is "very fair, even optimistic" --wide screen sales will grow from 19,000 this year to 96,000 in three years' time. In broadcast terms those are very small figures indeed --wide screen sets will grace fewer than 1% of UK households by 1995. …

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