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Sound and Vision: TCL’s progress is making it a rival to Samsung’s TVs

OPINION: TCL’s ascent in the TV market has been one that’s almost happened quietly. Such is its leap to prominence that it is now one of the biggest TV makers on this planet behind Samsung.

Market research conducted by Omdia earlier in 2023 showed that TCL had nudged LG out of the top two spot in terms of global shipments. It even outstripped Japanese giants like Sony and Panasonic by some distance in the rankings. The brand is the number one Android TV brand and tit is number one when it comes to 98-inch TVs (good for you if you’ve got room).

Now there are plenty of subtleties with this data. One is that this relates to global shipments to retailers, not TVs sold. Another is that TCL isn’t operating at the same price premium as other brands, and that a lot of these shipments have been to places that have seen a growth in TV buying such as China and Africa. In other markets TCL likely doesn’t have as strong a foothold.

But second place is nothing to sniff at, and there’s room for more growth and expansion if TCL gets its messaging right.

I was invited to sunny Milan to see TCL’s new wares during the city’s Design Week, and to continue the Samsung comparison, it struck me just how similar the approach was.

There was an emphasis on Mini LED TVs and a disinterest (so far) in OLED screens. It embraces 8K technology and covets gamers by including support for refresh rates up to 144Hz (something TCL claims it brought to the market first). But it was the brand’s concept lifestyle sets that drew out the strongest whiff of Samsung.

Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The Art Series, as TCL labels them, are concept TVs with no pricing available or even a guarantee that they’d reach the market.

The Deco TV was essentially the Sero but with a sort of wheels at its base that practically allowed Tiago Abreu, Head of TCL Innovation and Design, to start twirling around with it. The Art TV recalled The Frame with its deco stylings, although an interesting wrinkle is that it can be partnered with a soundbar with detachable Dolby Atmos speakers. These can be placed in a room to become surround speakers. Clever.

TCL Art Series TV
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The one TV that was quite different from anything I’d seen from Samsung was the Telly Table, which needs a new name becomes because every time it was said, all I could think of was Teletubbies.

TCL Telly Table TV

It’s a furniture table that you could play interactive games on, or flip it up on its stand so it becomes a more traditional TV experience with a speaker system in its undercarriage/rear side. It truly felt more like a ‘lifestyle’ TV than an art frame many other TV brands seem obsessed with.

And it’s innovation like this where TCL can perhaps make a stand by being different from the rest. Right now, it is best known for its budget TVs, the market it has made its presence felt as others have moved towards premium sets. A partnership with Roku is flourishing in the US and the UK (look out for our RP630K review soon).

The more people buy TCL TVs, the more familiar they become with the brand. If buyer behaviour is anything like it has been in the past, a good experience with one brand feeds into an ongoing relationship. TCL is beginning to gain traction in terms of its name, it’ll be a sponsor at Arsenal’s Emirate stadium from next season onwards, so the more people that know about it, the stronger the brand recognition.

Factor in that it is cheaper than most of the competition and you can see TCL’s strategy as clear as a VAR referee spots a handball. Samsung is still the king of TVs, but TCL is starting to gain speed and confidence as the Art Series showed. If they get it right, it could become a force to be reckoned with.

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