Employees work at the production line of Hisense Group's factory in Rosarita, Mexico. [Photo/Xinhua]
Domestic makers harness AI, internet of things, latest display technologies to produce innovative products
Slowdown-scarred and growth-seeking Chinese television manufacturers are ushering in an era of premium and intelligent TVs.
These new sets feature large screens with higher resolutions and next-generation display technologies, as increasing numbers of affluent consumers are pursuing connected, high-end lifestyles.
Industry insiders said the Chinese home appliance market is almost saturated, and the competition among major TV makers will be fiercer with technological advancements and innovation.
Hisense Group, a domestic television and appliance manufacturer, launched its 120-inch 4K smart TriChroma Laser TV during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. The TV has built-in 100-watt Harman Kardon audio and an ambient light rejection screen, projecting a 3,500-lumen picture.
"Laser TV has proven to be the ultimate way to watch TV at home, and that has inspired us to push even harder across our full range of products debuting this year," said David Gold, deputy general manager and vice-president of sales at Hisense USA Corp, at CES.
The Qingdao, Shandong province-based company also unveiled its newest ULED (ultra light emitting diode) TV, which features improved brightness and color, as well as Android TV, with full access to the Google Play store for apps, games, movies and TV shows.
Some models also incorporate quantum dot technology.
"We've reshaped the luxury TV market with Laser TV, and our 2019 products with ULED will reshape every other TV category with stunning picture quality and incredible design that's premium inside and out," said Gold.
Hisense had a 17 percent share in the domestic market last year, ranking first place, followed by Skyworth Group (12.8 percent) and TCL Corp (11.9 percent), according to market consultancy China Market Monitor Co Ltd.
Hisense also claimed a more than 50 percent share in the 80-inch and above screen laser TV market in 2018.
Yu Zhitao, general manager of Qingdao Hisense Electric Co Ltd, the group's listed arm, said the company will adhere to presenting a high-quality picture and large-sized screens this year, as well as promoting continuous innovation in ULED, graphics chips, laser displays and artificial intelligence technologies.
Hisense said it is abandoning its strategy of winning market share through low-price products. Instead, it has shifted its emphasis to producing the "best-quality products at competitive prices", said Liu Hongxin, president of Hisense Group.
"The high-end products have played a key role in the overseas development of our company."
The company's self-developed ULED technology, which enhances color, contrast, resolution and motion with a combination of advanced hardware and software, and outstanding local supply chains, have helped Hisense to give effective and timely feedback to the market, said Liu.
TV sales in the domestic market are expected to reach 48.51 million units this year, up 1.6 percent year-on-year, although revenue will dip to 146.8 billion yuan ($21.7 billion), down 1.5 percent year-on-year, according to Beijing-based consultancy All View Cloud.
AVC also noted TV sales reached 47.74 million units nationwide last year, up 0.5 percent compared with the previous year. But related sales revenue totaled 149 billion yuan, down 8.6 percent year-on-year.
Opportunities and challenges will coexist in the TV industry this year, said Peng Jianfeng, deputy secretary-general of the China Video Industry Association.
Peng noted that the over-the-top (OTT) business, meaning content that providers distribute via online streaming, will become an important revenue source for TV manufacturers.
"Global sales of OTT TVs will amount to 260 million units this year, with revenue from advertisements reaching 7 billion yuan to 9 billion yuan. Moreover, the deployment of 5G technology will make the transmission of 8K content possible, as well as boosting the development of the internet of things," Peng said.
However, he noted the TV industry faces challenges in the form of slower economic growth, excess capacity and the loss of TV users.
Skyworth Group is banking on organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TVs, as such high-end technology has helped Skyworth to conquer the domestic TV market.
The company introduced a series of AI chip-powered OLED TVs last year. The chips leverage AI to search, identify and refactor images and accurately enhance image quality, delivering a more lifelike viewing experience.
Skyworth has been producing OLED TVs since 2014. Statistics from AVC showed sales of Skyworth OLED TV accounted for 46 percent of total OLED sales in the Chinese market in 2017, followed by LG (16 percent) and Sony (14.9 percent).
"We have launched full-screen TVs, and cooperated with online entertainment service provider iQiyi and internet search giant Baidu in content and technology," said Wang Zhiguo, chief technology officer of Skyworth Group.
Shenzhen-based Skyworth's Coocaa system is fully integrated with Baidu Inc's DuerOS conversation-based AI system, for the joint development of technology, content, data and operation.
Skyworth said it will focus on developing artificial intelligence and internet of things technologies, and will open its resources for intelligent system sharing.
The traditional TV market is almost saturated and companies need to seek new growth points, said Dong Min, vice-president of AVC. New display technologies such as OLED TVs, curved screen TVs and screenless TVs are all good choices, he added.
Panel manufacturing capacity will continue to increase this year, meaning panel prices are expected to fall, which will alleviate some cost pressures on TV companies, said Zhu Yuanyuan, general manager of the TV unit at AVC.
Shenzhen-based electronics manufacturer Konka Group Co Ltd will focus on AI, 8K and 5G technologies to create more opportunities this year, and will increase investment in research and development, said Chang Dongfa, vice-president of the company.