Hisense Acquires Sharp America's Assets and Brand Name

Hisense and Sharp Logos
Hisense and Sharp Logos. Images via Wikimedia Commons

Goodbye Sharp - Hello Hisense!

In a major development in the consumer electronics industry, it has been announced that Hisense, one of China's largest TV makers, and fourth largest in the World, is acquiring the North American manufacturing assets (which are based in Mexico) of Japan-based Sharp, as well as securing brand name rights for the U.S. Market. In other words, all TVs bearing the Sharp brand name in the U.S. will now be manufactured by Hisense.

The license for Hisense to use the Sharp brand name has a term of five years from 2015 with an option to extend.

Why This Matters

This move is significant not only in the fact that Hisense has just gained a stronger foothold into the U.S. market, but also further reveals the weakness of Japan-based TV makers in their ability to compete with the likes of Korea-based LG and Samsung, as well as the continuing influx of China-based TV makers, that not only include Hisense, but TCL and Skyworth. In other words, as the Japan-based TV makers continue to struggle, Korea and China-owned TV brands will increase their dominance.

Vizio, which is one of the top selling TV brands in the U.S. (it has been a back-and-forth market share battle between them and Samsung for the top spot for the past few years), is, in fact U.S. owned, but they still outsource their manufacturing. To my knowledge Element is the only U.S. owned company that assembles TVs in the U.S., but its U.S. market share is a not a threat to either Vizio or China and Korea-based TV makers.

The demise of Sharp in the U.S. follows others in recent years, that, most recently, including Toshiba and Panasonic. Toshiba has licensed it brand TV brand name, while Panasonic is considering the possibility of reentering the U.S. TV market, should the competitive environment once again becomes favorable.

Also, Sony has reduced lower-end TV products in the U.S market., focusing more on mid and high-end TV products, which includes the marketing of OLED TVs.

Sharp's Place In Consumer Electronics History

Although Sharp's TV business has had financial difficulty in recent years as a result of reduced market share against its competitors, which makes this move not totally unexpected, it is definitely a sad moment as Sharp has a historical legacy as one of the pioneers in LCD technology, and was the first TV maker to introduce LCD TVs into the consumer market, amongst other LCD product innovations (remember the Sharp Viewcam?)

What Will Happen Now?

It is now uncertain if Sharp's innovative technologies, such as the Quattron 4-color system, Quattron Plus, and Beyond 4K, and 8K technologies will be available to U.S. consumers via Hisense. Another question is whether Hisense will continue to retain its own U.S. brand identity, or move everything it markets in the U.S. over to the Sharp brand name? As of 2017, Hisense has maintained both brand names, but still no indication of Shar-branded TVs being offered with the Quattron color system or other advanced tech.

On the other hand, Hisense has been upping their game in research, development, and implementation of cutting edge technologies that Sharp has not introduced into their product lines as of yet, such as Quantum Dots and Curved Screens.

Also, one important piece of information missing so far is whether this deal will affect, in any way, other Sharp consumer products sold in the U.S. market going forward, such as Sound Bars and compact audio systems. As of 2017, no Sharp sound bar and audio-only products are featured on their U.S. website - but that could change in the future.

More On The Story....Sharp Gets Seller's Remorse

In June 2017, news surfaced that Sharp was not happy with how Hisense is handling their Sharp brand license rights with accusations of misrepresenting the specifications and quality of Hisense's Sharp-branded TVs.

As a result, Sharp filed several lawsuits in the U.S., to resolve the alleged situation, which will take time to work its way through the system, unless there is a settlement.

If Sharp wins, they are considering buying back their brand name and possibly re-enter the U.S. and North American TV market with its own resources.

Stay tuned as more information becomes available with regards further litigation or settlement.

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