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Sharp Staying in Commercial TV Business

Company licensing consumer side of line to Chinese TV maker for $24 million, could ramp up B-to-B offerings.>

Sharp has indeed agreed to a $23.7 million licensing deal with Chinese TV maker Hisense that will see Hisense take over production of Sharp’s consumer TV line starting in January, but Sharp officials are stressing “it’s business as usual for us” when it comes to the commercial displays.

In fact, says Gary Bailer, director of product planning and marketing for Sharp’s pro AV category, “we’re actively staying in the [business-to-business] space” and Sharp could become more involved with commercial display production as a result of the selloff of the flagging consumer line.

“The Mexico factory [which Hisense gets as part of the licensing deal] has no bearing on what we’re doing on the B-to-B side,” says Bailer. In fact, he says, the Mexico factory isn’t where Sharp produces its professional displays.

“It was basically a financial decision [to stop producing consumer TVs],” says Bailer. “I wasn’t involved but I could see the writing on the wall. It certainly wasn’t a surprise that it happened.” Sharp exited the European market last year and Canada about six months ago, but is still profitable in Japan and other Asian markets with its consumer TVs.

In a letter released Aug. 6, Doug Albregts, president of Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America said, “While this is a significant change regarding our consumer TVs, the sales and marketing of Sharp’s entire B2B product portfolio, including displays, for business and commercial applications, remains unchanged. In fact, the Professional Displays are specifically not included in this agreement and will remain a key part of our B2B Product Portfolio.”

Bailer sees “some potential silver linings for the B-to-B side” as a result of the Hisense deal.

“The business solutions side of the business has been profitable for us,” says Bailer. “When you have an unprofitable side, you can’t always reinvest in the profitable side, but now that’s something we might be able to do in the medium term. Over time, we could have the benefits of resources that were on the consumer side flowing to the B-to-B side.”

That, says Bailer, will likely come in the form of increased collaboration between those who worked on consumer TVs for Sharp and those who work on the commercial part of the business, including the 80-inch AQUOS board with projection and touch capability that’s ideal for board rooms, classrooms and digital signage. Sharp also released a 70-inch AQUOS board at InfoComm 2015 and recently unveiled a 55-inch video wall display.

“It’s been a pretty busy year,” says Bailer. “The sales team has been inundated with phone calls and emails in the past week or so asking us about what’s going on and our competitors are informing our customers of things that just aren’t accurate. It allows you to have a constructive conversation with somebody about what opportunities are available and how we can work with them.”