For the first time in a long time, Sony is the top TV brand among CE Pro 100 dealers, overtaking perennial favorite Samsung as the preferred display company among high-revenue smart-home specifiers and installers.
As revealed in the 2017 CE Pro 100 Brand Analysis, 88 percent of CE Pro 100 dealers specify Sony displays, compared to 83 percent for Samsung and 58 percent for LG. Last year, Samsung beat Sony 79 percent to 74 percent. Back in 2014, it was 93 percent to 64 percent, Samsung.
Sony’s rise to the top is no surprise to specialty dealers who for years have battled online competition and declining margins in the residential display category, along with vendors who simply don’t care about the channel.
Sony has worked hard over the years to support specialty dealers, but its commitment accelerated about three years ago when industry veteran Frank Sterns joined the company as VP custom installation.
“Thanks to him, the entire TV category is profitable again,” says Richard Glikes, president of Azione Unlimited, an alliance of about 200 specialty dealers, plus vendor partners. “When you put an astute industry veteran at the helm who then adds good reps, restores margin to the category, develops logical steps in the product, and measures the results on a regular basis, you elevate at brand and enjoy elephantine success.”
CE Pro 100 Brand Analysis 2017
Sony is a member of several dealer alliances and buying groups, each of which has feted Sterns and the company for a host of honors including vendor of the year.
At the end of the day, it’s about profitability in the category, says Dave Workman, CEO of ProSource, another dealer group with about 600 dealer members.
On that front, Sony delivers, allowing specialty dealers “to refocus on the TV category after being all but run out of the business.”
Traditionally, the big TV brands have “favored larger retailers with programs intended to drive business to them,” Workman says.
In the case of ProSource and other buying groups, however, Sony has established a “standardized program level which can be achieved by most of the CI [custom integration] dealers” who are authorized to resell the product.
Furthermore, Sony “strictly enforces” SPPG (suggested profit picture guideline) pricing, Workman says, so specialty dealers don’t suffer the pricing whims of mass-market resellers.
In addition to its advantageous resale practices, Sony supports integrators in the field with a network of reps. Like Glikes, Workman applauds Sony for “installing a rep force to service these dealers versus being handled by distributors and tele-sales departments.”
Sony Products Aren’t So Shabby Either
Of course, business models alone can’t make a CE Pro 100 top brand. You have to have good products.
Here again, Sony delivers with “premium models and picture performance versus a market-share-at-all costs mentality,” Workman says.
“It’s as good as it gets,” said integrator Dallas Dingle of the 100-inch panel.
Since then, Sony’s CLEDIS has been winning the hearts of integrators who believe the commercial-oriented modular display platform could work well in high-end homes.
Pretty displays are only half the picture, however. Sony has committed to making all of its new 4K displays IP-controllable via third-party home automation systems. The displays also incorporate SDDP technology for auto-discovery by Control4 systems.
“Just a few short years ago, we weren’t sure that any of the major display manufacturers were truly interested in even participating in our channel,” says Jon Robbins, executive director of HTSA, another dealer group that embraces Sony. “It was at that time that Sony got a jump start by listening to our needs, hiring channel-knowledgeable staff (Frank Sterns), offering great progressive 4K display products that addressed CI design needs, and building programs and policies that facilitate our members’ success with the brand.”
There’s better news still. With the elevation of Sony in the home-technology channel, other big-brand TV manufacturers are following suit, which is great news for all of us in the high-performance A/V segment,” Robbins says. LG, for instance, continued its own OLED push over the past year and the premium offerings are likely a key reason the company saw an 18 percent increase among CE Pro 100 dealers.