The other day, my brother told me he needed a new TV and asked me for advice. I asked him the usual questions (What size do you want? How much do you want to spend? etc.). His response was, “I already did some research and found a TCL model that fits what I need. I’ve never heard of them before. Are they a good brand?”
I realized at that point that not everyone is familiar with the current TV market. As an analyst, I’m looking at the data and talking about TVs all day long. But unless you’re in the market for a new model, which happens on average every seven years, you probably haven’t been paying much attention lately. So I decided to put together this little primer on some lesser-known players in the current TV market so you can stay up to date on what’s happening in the world of televisions. I’m going to assume you’re already familiar with brands such as LG, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio and leave those out. Instead, I’m going to take you on a brief tour of seven other brands you need to be aware of. Oh, and spoiler alert: TCL is a great brand, especially if you need to stay within budget.
Hisense arrived in the US TV market in 2010 so it hasn’t been around as long as some other household names. The Chinese company was a long-time supplier for Best Buy’s Insignia and Dynex house brands before throwing its hat into the ring with its own branded models. Hisense created headlines in late 2015 when it acquired the rights to Sharp’s ailing North and South American TV business for a five-year period that extends through 2020.
Hisense is positioned as a mid-tier brand, offering high-end features at value prices, similar to TCL and Vizio. Hisense TVs are sold in stores like Best Buy, Costco, and Walmart as well as a variety of online retailers, including Amazon. Prices range from $139 for a 32-inch smart TV to $1,699 for a 75-inch 4K model at Amazon.
If you really haven’t been paying attention to anything TV-related for the past few years, I hate to break it to you but Panasonic doesn’t sell TVs in the US any more. Panasonic’s bread and butter were its world-class plasma TVs, but when LED-LCD technology began making rapid improvements, the plasma TV market tanked. By late 2013, Panasonic announced the closure of its last remaining plasma factories and by 2016, unable to compete in the US LCD-LED TV market, Panasonic retreated. The company continues to develop TV technologies and sells its televisions in Europe and Canada, but no longer competes stateside. However, the Panasonic name lives on in the US through its assortment of consumer electronics and small appliances.
Philips and Magnavox
The Philips and Magnavox brands have been sold in North America by Funai Corporation through a brand licensing agreement since 2008. The brands have traditionally been marketed as entry-level models for budget-conscious consumers. However, the Philips brand has undergone a resurgence lately so you may have noticed the models popping up in more places with an increasingly competitive mix of specs.
Philips TVs are currently sold in club stores and mass merchants like Target and Walmart, as well as a host of online locations. Philips TVs range in price from $98 for a basic 24-inch model to $1,499 for a 75-inch 4K TV. Magnavox TVs have more limited distribution and range in price from $147 to $499.
As mentioned above, the Sharp brand is currently under the control of Hisense and is halfway through the five-year deal. During this time, Sharp, propped up by new financial support from Foxconn, has launched several unsuccessful attempts to regain its TV business. Sharp dropped its most recent lawsuit earlier this year and has made no further moves in that direction.
Once known for its large-screen TVs, the Sharp brand has not been able to continue its dominance in that arena. Several brand options in a variety of price points now offer screen sizes as large as 80 inches or more. Sharp TVs continue to be sold in the US market but have a limited retail presence. Currently available in stores at Best Buy and BJ’s Wholesale Club, the Sharp brand is more easily found at a variety of online retailers. Prices range from $179 for a 32-inch Roku TV to $2,699 for a 75-inch 4K model.
Although TCL is one of the best-selling TV brands in the world, US consumers are not necessarily familiar with the name. TCL has been working to change that by getting its TVs into stores where more people are likely to see them. The company accomplished this a year ago when it won in-store presence at Best Buy so chances are good that you have seen TCL’s TVs around. As to whether or not they’re any good? TCL ranks third in terms of global LCD TV sales and in 2017 they sold more than 10% of all the LCD TVs in the world. But if numbers don’t convince you, consider this, budget hunters: TCL offers premium specs like the kinds found in mega-brands LG, Samsung, and Sony, but at very competitive prices.
TCL TVs are currently sold across retail at Best Buy, BJ's Wholesale Club, Costco, Sam’s Club, Target, and Walmart and online at even more resellers. Prices range from $129 for a 28-inch Roku TV to $1,599 for a 75-inch 4K model.
I bet you’re thinking, “Oh wait, I know this one! Toshiba has been around forever!” Not so fast. The Toshiba TVs you think you know are not the same as they used to be. Remember how Panasonic had to leave the US market because it couldn’t compete? Toshiba did the same thing at the end of 2014 and licensed its brand to Chinese company Compal Electronics for use in the US and other markets outside of Japan. Beginning in 2015, Toshiba-branded TVs have been sold exclusively at Best Buy as entry-level budget models. The only relationship that the new Toshiba TVs have to the old Toshiba company is the name.
Interestingly, Amazon recently named Toshiba TVs the brand of choice for its newest Fire TV models, along with other Best Buy house brand, Insignia. The Toshiba Fire TVs will be sold at Best Buy as well as online at Amazon. Toshiba TVs currently range in price from $119 for an entry-level 32-inch model to $479 for a 55-inch Amazon Fire TV.
Hopefully by now you’ve gained a bit more information about the current TV market so that when you hit the stores you’ll know what you’re looking at. If nothing else, at least now you know a few facts about some of the lesser-known TV brands. I guarantee you’ll be the hit of your next dinner party if you flash some of your new knowledge about everyone’s favorite consumer electronic: the TV!
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