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Sharp adds OLED to TV lineup after pricey 8K models fail to inspire

Company will use panels made by LG for Japan market

Sharp unveiled its first 8K televisions in 2017, but the ultrahigh-definition broadcasting format has yet to become mainstream. (Photo by Kaisuke Ohta)

OSAKA -- Sharp will add OLED televisions to its lineup in Japan using panels made by South Korea's LG Display, aiming to halt a drop in market share by covering a segment it had passed by.

The Osaka-headquartered unit of Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry, or Foxconn, will offer 55- and 65-inch TVs compatible with 4K ultrahigh-definition broadcasts.

Prices will start in the 300,000 yen ($2,700) range -- on a par with the competition. The TVs are due out as early as spring.

This marks a new departure for Sharp, which had focused on liquid crystal display TVs offering even higher 8K resolution. These TVs, made using the company's own panels, were positioned as its main high-end models, but 8K has not captured Japanese living rooms as fast as hoped.

Sharp led the domestic TV market in 2018, with a share of 25.8% by value in IHS Markit data. But it slipped to 22.2% in the January-September period last year to put the company in third place, after Sony and Panasonic.

Sharp's struggles at the high end are the biggest reason. Sony and Panasonic are expanding sales of TVs using organic light-emitting diode displays, which have proved popular in Japan.

For Panasonic models 55 inches and larger, unit sales jumped more than 30% on the year in the April-November period of 2019. Panasonic says sales have been strong enough to offset the slowdown in demand following the rush in purchases ahead of last October's consumption tax hike. Sony's 55-inch OLEDs have also sold well.

On the other hand, Sharp has focused on 8K LCD models partly in order to generate demand for its own panels. These TVs are around 10% to 20% pricier than OLED models.

Japan's official launch of 8K broadcasts in late 2018 had created hopes of a shot in the arm to a listless TV market. But so far, only public broadcaster NHK has broadcast such content. Little online video is available in 8K, either.

Adding to the pressure, TV manufacturers are jockeying for consumer demand in time for the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

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