AVForums meets that rarest of beasts, a British TV company.
In a market dominated by the Koreans and Japanese it’s always nice to see a UK company mixing it with the big boys.One such company is Linsar and whilst you might not be familiar with them at the moment, you will be hearing a lot more about them in the near future. Two weeks ago we popped down to their head office at Hurn Airport just outside Bournemouth to find out more.
The company was founded over six years ago by Barry Kick and Terry Reed, both of whom have very strong backgrounds in the AV industry. The two founders previously worked at companies such as Akai, Ferguson and finally Thomson but when the French manufacturer closed their doors, they decided to set up a company selling their own branded TVs into the UK market. Whilst they could have just distributed an existing brand, Barry and Terry wanted to create a unique brand of their own and thus was born Linsar. Of course if you’re going to create your own brand you need a name and in the case of Linsar, the name is actually an amalgamation of Lynne and Sarah, the wives of the two owners.
Whilst Linsar is a UK company, the TVs aren't actually made here and instead, like many other brands, they are assembled at Vestel's gigantic factory in Turkey. However, it is Linsar that choose the various designs and components, fashioning a TV that they feel caters to the specific needs of the UK market. The concept is to make the company efficient and nimble, thus keeping overheads low and allowing them to react quickly to changes in the marketplace. Linsar’s ultimate goal is to produce a wide range of good entry priced products that provide un-compromised value in today’s difficult economic environment.
Vestel are the quiet giant when it comes to TV production, making models for over 500 different TV brands across the world. They operate a gigantic state-of-the-art factory in Turkey which attracts the best talent from Turkish universities. Whilst Vestel do use panels made by LG and Samsung, they also manufacture their own, as well as doing their own moulding and producing chip sets, power supplies and main board assemblies. Vestel’s Turkey facility delivers 200% quality assurance and Linsar only use the A grade panels, ensuring there are no dead pixels. Vestel also produce a number of different chassis for each model, allowing Linsar to combine different elements to create their own unique brand. Linsar are then able to feedback to Vestel, pushing them to enhance their products and thus improve the Linsar brand.
Until recently, Linsar’s primary models have been in the smaller screen sizes because traditionally this part of the market is less brand sensitive. They initially offered 19 to 26” LCD TVs using a CCFL backlight and then added similar screen sizes but with an LED backlight. They also introduced TV/DVD Combis in similar screen sizes and about three years ago, combis accounted for 80% of sales in these smaller screen sizes.
More recently Linsar have started to offer larger screen sizes including a 32” in four different ranges, as well as a 40” LED LCD and a 46” LCD using a CCFL backlight. All Linsar models over 32” include a Freeview HD tuner and all models include their Plug-Play-Record feature which allows you to watch or listen to content via a USB thumb drive or record content from the EPG via a USB drive or powered HDD. Linsar have also introduced a range of much slimmer models to make wall mounting in bedrooms easier. In the near future, Linsar will be releasing 46” and 55” LED LCD TVs and they will also be releasing passive 3D sets, including a 24” screen aimed at the 3D gamer.The name is actually an amalgamation of Lynne and Sarah, the wives of the two owners.
These days there is very little lag between the primary TV manufacturers developing new technology and the secondary ones implementing it and freed from the need to invest vast sums into research and development, Linsar is able to concentrate on other factors. They feel they are operating in a different market to the likes of Samsungand as such they aim to provide a quality product at competitive prices. They also feel that due to their size they can respond to client demands and offer a higher level of customer support. To help deliver this goal, they run a support centre out of their Bournemouth offices that is staffed by people that actually know the products. They are also confident enough in their product to offer a five year guarantee on their TVs, a straight swap in the first year and repair in the other four.
Linsar TVs can be bought from various premium retailers, including John Lewis, and they are now being sold in the larger Waitrose stores. Their relationship with John Lewis has developed a great deal over the last six years and the retailer was so impressed by the customer feedback for Linsar and the lack of returns, that Linsar now produce John Lewis’s own brand of TVs.
So what does the future hold for Linsar? Well one of the big areas of development over the last few years has been smart TV and Linsar have plans to launch their own platform. However unlike many of the other TV manufacturers, Linsar feel that watching TV is inherently a passive activity and thus they see little value in offering an interactive platform. They don't want their platform to be 'dumb' of course but what they want to offer is a platform that delivers passive content that actually helps people watch TV and gives them better control over that content. Linsar are looking at using a cloud based platform that combines all the usual video on demand services like iPlayer, YouTube, Netflix, LoveFilm etc. but will also add other third party content.
Linsar feel the key to the new platform's success will be how easy it is for people to actually access the smart TVcontent. To this end, Linsar plan to include all the VoD content within the existing programme guide, allowing users to select content just as they would any other programme. This approach has always been central to Linsar’s philosophy of taking their understanding of what the customer wants and then applying existing technologies more effectively to meet those needs. They also try to find out what a product means to a customer and thus they can tailor it more to their lifestyle. For example Linsar already use remote controls with large buttons to help older users and those with poor eyesight but they hope to take that to the next level, offering a product that benefits an aging population.
This approach has certainly been successful for Linsar so far and in this Olympic year, it is certainly encouraging to see a British company doing well in such a competitive market. One thing is for sure, Linsar can expect to reap further rewards, just as long as the keep listening to their customers.
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