Australians will have to wait till at least September 07 to see the next generation of plasma screens from Pioneer which have been described as the best TV screens in the world today.

Pioneer has unveiled eight new models overnight in Europe and the USA, all offering ultra-high black level performance. The line consists of four models each under the Pioneer and Elite brands. Each brand will carry two XGA models in the 42-inch and 50-inch screen sizes and two full 1080p models in the 50-inch and 60-inch screen sizes, Pioneer said it is expected that only one or two of the models will be released in Australia.

All new models will feature a panel with a new cell structure, a new filter and a new video processor.

In an effort to survive Pioneer has totally re-engineered its plasma technology at the direction of its global CEO, to yield what the company is calling the highest performance levels in the industry. Pioneer executives acknowledged the new designs were, in part, inspired by past prototype demonstrations of Toshiba’s and Canon’s promised SED flat-panel technology, which after a technology licensing snafu, now faces an uncertain future.


Although Pioneer refuses to divulge performance specs, its executives say that the newly re-engineered system “produces the deepest blacks of any other flat panel displays.”

Pioneer announced a global marketing and product development initiative called “Project KURO” (black in Japanese), which will highlight Pioneer’s deep-black plasma expertise, while the company seeks to expand its higher-end market message across all of its product categories. Pioneer’s Russ Johnston unveils new “Project KURO” deep-black plasma TVs, due to ship in Australia in the last quarter of the year.

What is not known is whether Pioneer Australia will continue with its in house marketing and advertising; a move which has seen Pioneer role out some rank amateur creative up against slick agency developed creative from the likes of LG, Sony and Samsung  for LCD TV.

In recent months Pioneer has been forced to re think its marketing and sales operations as it piled on losses. In Australia the local MD Ken Barelli was sacked after 30 years at the company.

A directive from Japan could see Pioneer Electronics in Australia be forced to adopt  global sales and marketing practices, said Ken Shioda, Pioneer Corp, display products general manager.

“It was decided that we needed to do this more consistently on a global basis,” he said. “We enlisted the support of TBWA/Chiat/Day consultants and began a 360 degree view of the market and our business. Over time we will look at everything from product development to the selling environment to post purchase service and of course marketing and advertising with TBWA.”

TBWA will handle Pioneer’s flat panel television business globally as well as additional audio and video assignments, Pioneer said. This will include brand strategy, creative, and in some markets, media buying through Omnicom Media Group.


New campaigns will launch, with an ad budget that is about double what Pioneer invested last year, said Russ Johnston, Pioneer Electronics USA marketing and product development senior VP. Shioda said Pioneer will focus on growing its target customer base, which he labeled “discerning entertainment junkies. They are not determined only by age and gender, but by their passion for entertainment film and sports. They understand the difference in quality that Pioneer offers.”

Secondly, the Pioneer executive said it is paying closer attention to the entertainment community in developing and marketing high black level displays. “We are in a unique position,” said Tom Haga, Pioneer Electronics USA president and chairman. “We don’t represent the world’s largest capacity of displays, but we represent state of the art technologies. This allows Pioneer to break away from the commoditisation model that so many companies are chasing. We must deliver to those who demand the best – that is what we provide and that is what those consumers deserve. The richer colours and deeper black levels of these plasma line resulted from a new panel cell structure and direct colour filter, he said.

“By creating a new electron source at the base of the new cell structure, idling luminance is now reduced by 80 percent,” Johnston said. “Traditional plasma must maintain a minimal charge inside each cell to obtain peak brightness just before the cell fires. This minimal charge is very visible and is a barrier to created deep blacks.” Pioneer’s new technology nearly turns the cell off, he said, to achieve deeper blacks. It also increases the gradation three times in the black areas, providing more detail and colour space, he said. The company’s new direct colour filter is said to reduce secondary reflections and ambient light to maintain the deep black level performance over a wide range of room light conditions.


For video processing, Pioneer is employing a new ASIC video processor that is designed to improve the clarity of HD and SD content. The system delivers high-performance video scaling, high-performance de-interlacing and MPEG compression noise detection to reduce image artifacts.

What is not known is what the retail pricing of the new Pioneer plasma models will be in Australia or which models will be shipped. Late last year Pioneer priced its 50″ 1080p plasma at $15,000 only to drop it 4 months later to sub $10,000 as plasma prices crashed.

In the USA market Pioneer will offer four 1080p models including 50-inch (US$5,000) and 60-inch (US$6,500) Pioneer models and 50-inch (US$6,000) and 60-inch ($7,500) Elite models. “There is a slight reduction in our prices from last year,” said Johnston. “The biggest reduction is in our 1080p models, not the XGA.”

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