At Panasonic’s 2015 European convention in Frankfurt this week, we got the chance to sit down with Craig Cunningham, who is the VIERA TV Product Manager for Panasonic UK to talk about the upcoming trends, features and plans Panasonic have for their extensive TV line-up. For this interview, our questions will be labeled TEN (TheEffect.Net) and Craig’s answers will be labeled CC.
TEN: From the sales figures and consumer-buying trends from last year, what was the biggest surprise for you in terms of the public’s buying habits when it came to big-screen TVs?
CC: “We definitely see a shift in consumer trends for the larger models in our range and 4K sales are far exceeding what many market analysts believed they would be with as much as 300,000 units selling as opposed to the predicted 100,000 units. With nearly 2/3 of Panasonic’s latest range now offering 4K, we definitely feel we’re in a good place in being able to offer our customers the features they need for a competitive price.”
TEN: Are you seeing a shift in your manufacturing processes in terms of what agencies and outlets you speak to to ensure your units are compatible with the latest services? eg. Netflix 4K
CC: “We definitely felt we’ve learnt a lot from our customers and what they wanted and if you take for example our AX800 from last year which didn’t support Netflix 4K from the start and we had to upgrade our systems later on, it taught us a lesson that you need to be on board with these guys from the start. Since then, we’ve created a partnership with Netflix to ensure our TVs are compatible with their service and what they have coming in the future such as HDR content.”
TEN: You recently felt that other companies offering OLED panels at just 1080p is a weird trade-off, that OLED is still finding its feet and that Panasonic will be ready to enter the market once public interest is high enough; have your thoughts changed on this?
CC: “I don’t really think it’s down to when public interest is ‘high enough’, the technology is fantastic and we’ve always said we’re invested in it so nothing’s really changed from that point of view. When OLED does finally come from Panasonic, it will come in both formats (1080p & 4K) but as and when that will be? It’s still a work in progress.”
TEN: HDR is the one of the new UHD standards. When should we expect Panasonic tv’s on the market that meet the recently agreed 4K/UHD Standards? Are there upgrade channels for people who purchase now?
CC: “In terms of HDR, we will have a couple of ranged HDR TVs which you will see launching from June time. In terms of the standard for HDR, that actually hasn’t been completely finalised yet so no one can tell you that they are 100% compliant with HDR, all they can tell you is that they have panels that are capable of HDR which we have in a couple of our series. I don’t think we are far away from that being finalised (HDR standards) and if there are any small tweaks that have to be made, that will be via a software update.”
TEN: A lot of the TV companies, specifically US ones, have dropped 3D; what is Panasonic’s current stance on this?
CC: “It’s still part of our line up but I wouldn’t say it’s a key ‘go-to-market’ message but you would still be surprised at how many people want the feature as part of their new TV purchase requirements, they at least want to experience it. It’s by no means a dead technology but it’s just not one of our key pushing points.”
TEN: What made you choose to go with Firefox OS on your TVs instead of say Android like Sony and Sharp?
CC: “I think it was mainly to do with the flexibility of the platform and that it’s complete open so the amount of people that can develop on their is fantastic for us. If you have a look at a demo you can see how nice the look and feel of the whole OS is. We had the option to go with whoever we wanted and that is the one we felt delivered the best experience.”