Electronic displays worldwide

Sharp Created the Mass LCD-TV Market. What Now?

by Ken Werner

Sharp created the mass LCD-TV market, mostly by selling LCD-TVs years before LCD technology was ready to support the application. The early Sharp LCD-TVs were truly terrible, in part because the LCDs of the time could not support video rates.

But when the technology matured sufficiently, Sharp was already there, commanding over 50% of the market for years. But then Sharp’s share fell below 50% and then ultimately fell to the low single digits, and then Sharp was gone from the North American TV market. (Cheapies with a licensed Sharp logo on them don’t count.) Now, Hon Hai is reintroducing Sharp as a premium brand with an “all-8K” product line.

Although Sharp left the North American TV Market, they maintained a strong presence in the signage and commercial markets, and it makes sense for Sharp to establish itself as a leader there, where an interest in 8K is just beginning to sprout.

At the Digital Signage Expo (March 26-29 in Las Vegas), Sharp showed its existing 69.5-inch 8K display and the new 79.5-inch 8K that has a maximum peak white luminace of 4000 nits and the ability to receive 8K data through a single HDMI 2.1 cable, Sharp says.

Sharp’s 70-inch LV-70X500E 8K TV was introduced in Europe
last year at an MSRP of €11,199. (Photo: Sharp)

The “All-8K” label at CES seems to be aspirational since Sharp features a variety of 4K pro A/V and consumer TVs on its website. The TVs are presumably Hisense TVs that carry the Sharp brand through a licensing agreement that Sharp’s parent Hon Hai tried and failed to break, claiming the Hisense sets were shoddy and were damaging the Sharp brand. The agreement expires in 2020. The smallest of the 4K TVs shown on the website is 43 inches, with prices straddling $400. That’s a lot of pixels per square inch.

At the moment 8 million pixels (4K) are cheap and 32 milllion pixels (8K) are expensive. Panel and monitor makers have to sell something with an appreciable margin, even if they only sell a few of them.

But, as my colleague Pete Putman observes, “[Sharp] very much plan[s] to be a major player in the consumer TV market as well as digital signage. [They showed] a complete 8K production ecosystem at NAB — an 8K camera with their own sensor (and Canon lenses), 8K media storage, 8K video over
IT networks, and even an 8K non-linear editing system. Both Sharp in Japan and Hon Hai are working on all of the parts of the system.”

Now that sounds like a strategy.

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