Sony announce record loss and staff cull. It's time for a rethink.

Two days ago, Sony announced that they have suffered a record loss. Today comes news that they will shed 6% of their workforce – approximately 10,000 jobs. Newly installed Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai has announced, among other actions, has stated that “My biggest responsibility is to revive the electronics business and shift it into a path for growth.”

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a new TV. It was a Sony Bravia 32 inch LED TV. The picture quality is pretty amazing and, best of all, it offered both Internet TV channels through the unit as well as some network connectivity that would allow me to stream video files housed on computers connected to the same network. It filled most of my nerdy requirements.

When I want to watch broadcast TV, I click the TV button and flick through the channels. I’ve played around with the system and edited out channels of no value to me (SBS1 SD is useless with an HD channel also broadcasting, similarly who really wants TV4ME or Extra?). When I want to watch a Bluray or something via the Apple TV, another button will facilitate switching between the HDMI peripherals I’ve attached to the TV. And finally, when I want to stream some TV online, I click the Internet button and up comes a number of options between online channels like ABC iView, Quickflix, SBS On Demand, Billabong, 7Plus, etc). It’s very easy to navigate around.

When it comes to AV equipment, I often find myself going for Sony. The gear always manages to both impress me and last for years. And yet, when I hear that they are having trouble moving enough TV’s to post profits, I’m not surprised in the least.

As easy as it is to use the Smart TV I’ve purchased, Sony have done a lousy job promoting it to me. While they do talk up the Internet connectivity somewhat, I’d suggest that very few people buying the units have considered the addition of these services into their daily TV viewing. Go to your local electronics store and I guarantee that very few, if any, of the TV’s on display will be connected to the Internet. Instead, all of the TV’s will likely be connected to the same video stream of whatever computer animated film is the flavour of that month.

I knew what I was after and, as a massive nerd, I didn’t need to be sold on the IPTV functionality. Colour me surprised though when I set up the unit and found just how easy it was to stream video files from my NAS drive to the TV itself over my home network. It’s a GREAT bit of functionality that I had no idea about. Such a worthwhile feature that I will use all the time played absolutely no role in my purchase decision making. There’s something wrong about that.

And that is where the problem is with Sony. They may be making great products that can not only complement consumers connected media viewing needs, but they are lousy at ensuring that the consumers understand the value of the functionality and that it even exists.

Sony’s old-school thinking is also detrimental. While the TV I purchased has a lovely screen and a low energy rating, its real value to me has come by what it can do in connecting online and to my home network. Many people who have purchased the very same model that I have will simply not have that same view of their TV. And why? Sony’s business practice of the up-sell. The Sony Bravia TV can only access its ‘smart’ functionality after a special dongle has been purchased. Unlike most other TV-connectable devices on the market these days (including Sony’s very own PS3 gaming systems), the Sony TV’s will not access the Internet until owners fork out an additional $99.00 for the dongle. Similarly, any consumers wanting to utilise Skype on their TV’s will need to spend $199.00 to buy the connector that adds a camera and microphone to their TV.

Consumers are either being put off by the price of these add-ons, or simply don’t see the point to begin with as Sony haven’t properly marketed the value of the Internet and network connectivity to them. The only word of mouth generated by those who have taken the extra step of connecting their TV to the Internet is based around the nuisance and expense of having to buy the peripherals.

A recent SMH article stated that very few connected TV’s sold in Australia are actually connected to the Internet. And considering the post-purchase difficulties of doing so, is it really and wonder why?

TV manufacturers have had it good over the past decade as consumers have upgraded their small CRT televisions for larger flat screen plasmas/LCD’s/LED’s. Consumers now need to be convinced that they need to buy a new set again, but the manufacturers simply aren’t providing a compelling reason to do so. Manufacturers like Sony really need to engage in a rethink to avoid industry practices and consider what exactly it is that they’re selling to the marketplace.

 

Content Director at Televised Revolution

Dan Barrett is the Content Director of Televised Revolution. His musings on television have been heard across ABC Radio, on websites like The Guardian and Crikey, and drunkenly in pubs across the country. At night he spends too many hours watching repeats of Cheers.

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