JAPAN/KOREA: Smartphone success heralds Samsung's new assault on Japanese TV market

Samsung's Galaxy smartphones – big in Japan

If there's one thing that helps the troubled Japanese TV manufacturers, it's the fierce loyalty of the customers back home when it comes to buying TVs, making Japan a difficult market for outside companies to crack.

Domestic consumption accounts for a major part of Panasonic's TV sales, for example, and brands such as Hitachi and Toshiba have a much greater presence in Japanese stores than they manage on the wider global market.

But now Samsung looks likely to be squaring up for a new attack on the Japanese market – and it's doing so on the back of some serious brand-building done with the success of its Galaxy smartphones. That's the view of Japan's Nikkei business news service, in a report published yesterday.

The Japanese TV market, which boomed in recent times thanks to government eco-programmes and the recently-completed switchover to digital broadcasting, has traditionally eluded outside manufacturers, consumers preferring a 'Made in Japan' label on their tellies.

Samsung has already had one go at the Japanese TV market, entering almost ten years ago, and calling it quits five years later in 2007, when it had achieved a market share of just 0.3%.

That's small beer compared to Samsung's global flat-panel share, which was 18.7% last year (ahead of LG on 13.1%, Sony on 10.3% and Panasonic on 7.9%).

But now, buoyed by the runaway success of its Galaxy smartphones in Japan, the company is looking at re-entering the Japanese market as early as next year, targeting sales of large-screen (40in+) LCD sets, internet-connected and 3D models and – in the near future – OLED TVs.

Samsung has already shown a range of OLED TVs of increasing sizes at various recent trade shows and events, and is widely expected to reveal its own 55in set at CES 2012, which opens next week in Las Vegas, to challenge the model already announced by rival LG.

The Nikkei reports that Samsung has been having talks with major volume retailers in Japan, including Yamada Denki and Yodobashi Camera, and is aiming to beat its Japanese rivals into the shops with innovations such as OLED, with which it hopes to grab a significant market share.

The Korean company set itself a 2011 worldwide sales target of 45m TVs, 15% higher than in 2010, and while it remains to be seen whether that was achieved, a slice of the Japanese TV market – even though this has contracted from 26m units in 2010 to 15m in the current financial year – would help Samsung achieve its ambitious plans to reinforce its global leadership.

However, a major move into the Japanese market by the Korean companies looks likely to put even more pressure on the ailing TV divisions of the big domestic manufacturers.

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Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.