What the death of Kuro means for high-end TVs

"We should have enough to see us through to the end of the year," Jim Catcheside, Product Manager for Home Business Division at Pioneer GB, told me. He also confirmed that the rest of Pioneer's home entertainment portfolio - amplifiers, Blu-ray players and home cinema systems will all continue. The March 2010 cessation date does seem far in the future, but that could be partly explained by the fact that the G9 plasmas have only just gone on sale in Australia.

Risky step

The positioning of Kuro as a luxury brand was always a risky step - and the esoteric advertising didn't help. Raising profit margins in what quickly became a fierce commodity market is something Fujitsu, another 'pioneer' of plasma back in the late 1990s, tried - and failed - to do a few years ago. The maker of the first-ever plasmas aimed its screens instead at the tiny but profit-heavy custom installation market, where price is less of a barrier to sales. Without much of a reputation or brand, Fujitsu eventually closed its doors early in 2008.

Hailed as the best by almost anyone who knows anything about televisions, Pioneer could arguably have followed the same path with more success than Fujitsu.

Pioneer - whose TV business accounted for only 14 per cent of its turnover - held a mere 5.9 per cent share of the worldwide market last year, according to analysts at DisplaySearch. The rest was divided between Panasonic (37.2 per cent), Samsung (22.8 per cent) and LG (15.5 per cent).

Panasonic seems the best-placed brand to capitalise on the demise of Kuro. In recent years Panasonic - now the one remaining plasma manufacturer in Japan - has poured a lot of investment into both production and advertising.

The result has been economies of scale almost as big as the brand awareness, with Panasonic announcing recently that it plans to increase its production of 42-inch plasmas to 23 million units a year. With sales of its plasmas almost doubling last year, too, and with new slim models imminent, Panasonic looks likely to inherit the crown of king of plasma.

If it does achieve plasma perfection - and it's not far away already - it will be partly on the back of a select group of engineers at Pioneer who invented the true black high-definition TV. Sayonara, Pioneer.


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Jamie Carter

Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and Space.com. He also edits two of his own websites, TravGear.com and WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),