With Valentine’s Day upon us this week, it may be a good time to confess my love affair with Sony.
It started before I ever entered the AV world. It may have been just a crush during my early boom box days, yet became a full-blown affair by college as Alanis Morissette blasted on my CD player. Of course, my first TV was a Sony and so was my second and so is the XBR panel that I have today. Yep, I’ve had it bad.
My feelings only got stronger when Sony flew me to Las Vegas for their line show when I started in this industry. There I met product engineers and experts (some of whom I befriended). This is where I learned about broadcast flags, why HDMI “really” exists and all about high definition before it was commonly on the market. I looked at a bowl of fruit on the table and that same bowl of fruit on a Sony TV screen and learned about color reproduction.
Then, as the stock market crashed, Sony and I hit a rocky road in our relationship. From Vegas, the show was moved to New Jersey. The event went from sit-down discussions, to an occasion where numbers were not discussed (and my sales were up that year). Then the line show was cancelled all together. After that, my rep, whom I had grown to adore, was let go.
After so much history with the brand, I was willing to remain committed. After all, the product was still solid, even if you ignored the issues with their model line-ups. My new Sony rep wasn't as fun loving, but alas I still had a direct contact, which was more than I could say about any other TV manufacturer. Then came, "We're going to sell to Walmart" announcement. Sony was cheating on me! They wanted to be part of that voluptuous (is evil too strong a word?) company. Still I remained devoted and loyal.
Next, they dropped this bombshell: On February 6, 2014 Sony announced “significant new measures to address reform of its PC and TV businesses aimed at accelerating the revitalization and growth of its electronics business.”
To you this may seem like a smart move; for years Sony has struggled with its TV product line. After falling behind on the production of larger sets, they couldn’t find the sexiness of Samsung’s slim bezels (although they have improved).
I feel as if I've been served divorce papers.
“First, Sony will shift its product mix and focus on increasing the proportion of sales from high-end models in FY14. Sony plans to reinforce the company's leading position in the 4K market by strengthening its product lineup while also bolstering its 2K models with wide color range and image-enhancing technologies.”
All right, focus on the good stuff. This makes sense!
“In emerging markets, Sony will aim to harness market expansion by developing and launching models tailored to specific local needs.”
I look forward to what this could mean...
“Second, Sony will accelerate and broaden its on-going cost reduction and operational improvement measures, focusing attention across all functions relevant to the TV business, including manufacturing, sales, and headquarters/indirect functions.”
Keep your expenses down; this I can appreciate. But, wait there’s more…
“In addition, to help transform this business into a more efficient and dynamic organization, optimized in size and structure for the current competitive business environment and fully accountable for its operations, Sony has decided to split out the TV business and operate it as a wholly owned subsidiary.”
There it is folks. The company that I could still purchase direct from is no more. Might it be more streamlined, efficient, and profitable? I suppose so, but it is time for me to admit that the relationship we had is over.
The television market is the core of who Sony is. Everyone has owned a Sony; they were the good guys (vs. the cheap flat panels that make me cringe when I see them at the big box stores.) Since the day we’ve opened our doors we’ve sold Sony televisions (we're talking 30 years here). They have been a truly consistent quality brand over the course of time. Others have come and gone (RCA, Zenith, Hitachi) while Sony has stood the test of time.
At some point, they went from inventing new technologies, from innovating to “better the world,” to forcing a technology that wasn’t working (3D I’m looking at you). We owe Sony a lot. They’ve been in our lives, from boomboxes to the Walkman and ask just about anyone and they’ve owned a Sony TV.
If this next step isn't profitable, and Sony stops manufacturing TVs, then our next generation will not grow up with this “feel good” company. If they are carving out the core of who they are, of where they came from, they may lose all vision for the future.
As for me, I'll be mourning our break up over chocolate. Happy Valentines Day.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is the president of Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.