Hisense Acquires Sharp America's Assets and Brand Name

All Sharp TVs sold in the U.S. are made by Hisense

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

In a major development in the consumer electronics industry, Hisense, one of China's largest TV makers, and fourth largest in the world, acquired the North American manufacturing assets of Japan-based Sharp, as well as securing brand name rights for the U.S. market. Now, Hisense manufactures all TVs bearing the Sharp brand name in the U.S. 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 because Hisense gained a stronger foothold in the U.S. market, but also because it further revealed the weakness of Japan-based TV makers to compete with the likes of Korea-based LG and Samsung and the continuing influx of China-based TV makers. Japan-based TV makers were struggling, while Korean and China-owned TV brands were increasing their dominance.

Vizio, which is one of the top-selling TV brands in the U.S. is U.S. owned, but it outsources its manufacturing. Element is a 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 included Toshiba and Panasonic. Toshiba licensed its TV brand name, while Panasonic re-entered the U.S. TV market. Sony has reduced low-end TV products in the U.S market and is 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, this move was not unexpected. However, it is a sad moment because Sharp has a historical legacy as one of the pioneers in LCD technology and was the first TV maker to introduce LCD TVs to the consumer market.

What Happens Now?

It is uncertain if Sharp's innovative technologies, such as the Quattron 4-color system, Quattron Plus, 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 2018, Hisense has maintained both brand names.

Hisense has been upping its 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.

Sharp Had Seller's Remorse

In June 2017, news surfaced that Sharp was not happy with how Hisense is handling its Sharp brand license rights. Sharp felt its name was being used inappropriately with low-quality TVs.

Sharp dropped the suit against Hisense in early 2018.