182: TCL’s Bruce Walker Talks Big Screens and the NFL Partnership

Written by Rob Stott

August 29, 2023

TCL has regularly pushed the envelope in the screen business – it’s how the brand became one of the fastest growing in North America over the past decade. But, as Product Evangelist Bruce Walker tells us, it’s more than just the technology that’s catching people’s attention these days. TCL landed a massive opportunity earlier this year, becoming the official TV partner of the NFL – a deal that will benefit independent retailers just as much as the brand itself.


Rob Stott: All right. We are back on the Independent Thinking Podcast, coming to you, once again, high above the Expo floor here in Nashville.

Bruce Walker: That’s right.

Rob Stott: Mr. Bruce Walker, product evangelist at TCL. How you doing, man?

Bruce Walker: Great. Great to see you again, Rob, excited to be here, great venue here, great to see things from up above.

Rob Stott: It’s a different perspective, isn’t it? It’s cool up here.

Bruce Walker: A little calmer. Yes.

Rob Stott: I know. It’s hustling and bustling down there.

Bruce Walker: Absolutely.

Rob Stott: But these glass walls do a nice job keeping the noise out and letting us sit and record a podcast, man.

Bruce Walker: Absolutely.

Rob Stott: How you doing?

Bruce Walker: Doing fantastic. Having a great time. Love being here on Nashville. Love being here with all the partners nationwide, seeing all the great things that are going on from a sales point of view, all the retail partners that are down there, seeing TCL, for not the first time and really getting to know everybody. It’s a great time.

Rob Stott: Yeah. And you guys, a different approach this year and I like it. Because we’ve seen the booth, you guys have an awesome pre… Every show you guys go to you have a great presence. And you do here too. Tell a little bit about what you’re doing.

Bruce Walker: We spent years, as with TCL as a brand, building the brand. And as a result for the past four years, we’ve been a top two bestselling TV brand in the United States, a lot of help from the partners down here, all the members here. What we’re doing this year is really partnering with our distributor partners. We’ve got setups within O’Rourke and within NextLevel, getting one step closer to the people that are the most important, the end customer, and then the retail members here that actually represent the product to our customers. It’s great to be one step closer in helping people understand the brand.

Rob Stott: We talk a lot. We get Randy Derr on this podcast occasionally to talk about the distribution network and the power of that for our dealers. Talk about that from the vendor side. What’s it do for you?

Bruce Walker: It’s a great thing. It’s very, very efficient for us. Our distributor partners are amazingly efficient and allows us to touch the term of the mom and the pop retailers that are out there, some bigger, some smaller that wouldn’t necessarily get the opportunities to deal with big brands and get them out there and get them represented in a whole different channel out there. It’s great to see these folks.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. And now I know we can see it, it’s on the other side of the floor, if you look somewhere. I don’t know if my finger’s in the right spot. But right behind that 1800 sign, you got the O’Rourke booth back in the view there. What are you guys showing off this weekend at the show?

Bruce Walker: We’re showing, we got our whole new revamp lineup this year. We’ve made our lineup simpler. It’s broken down into two classes. Our S Class is our simply smart, our good quality TVs. And then we’re really excited about our Q Class line of TVs that really brings all the technology that TCL’s been known for over the years and our innovations over the years, and putting it in a big class of TVs, and amongst the technologies we show in our Q Class, our QLED, that’s what the Q stands for.

So quantum dot back when TCL introduced to the World’s first big screen quantum TV in 2015, we’ve really been at the forefront of that technology. We’ve also got incredibly new bright panels leading all the way up to our flagship QMA TV, which has our latest mini LED backlight, which is really the industry standard for brightness and performance.

Again, the fact that we introduced the World’s first mini LED TV back in 2019, this new lineup on, in addition to being an incredible value that we’ve always been, I’m very proud of the fact that we’re seeing reviews against the big boys that we grew up respecting, Samsung, Sony, LG. And they’re talking about our TCL TVs. Only at the end of the review do they say, “Oh, by the way it’s a really good value to it, competes amongst the best of the best in each price category. And it’s still at tremendous value.”

Rob Stott: It’s awesome. Listening to you talk about it’s the pitch that the retailer can make to that customer, right? But what could you tell them? They’re swinging by the booth here, what do you tell them as far as how they can position your product in their stores for success?

Bruce Walker: Absolutely. Depending on the likelihood, we’ve got that S class TV for the customer that wants the basic TV sets, the good quality TVs. We’ve got everything from the second bedroom, basic 32 inch TV. To what we’re really excited about within that S class, while it’s not that premium performance, our S four TV in a category of not quite premium but still a good solid TV. We’ve done a lot of work in that model series for this year.

This year we’ve added things like Dolby Vision, the best HDR content, some great gaming features with an automatic gaming mode. We’ve got Dolby Atmos pass through for better audio. Even in that class of TV that a lot of manufacturers have let slide, we can deliver a better experience for our customers.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. As far as trends, obviously the push has been to bigger screens, right? And seeing more consumers interested in those larger screens. What are you guys seeing? Is that still the push?

Bruce Walker: Bigger and better. That’s our mantra for this year. And if you look at the fact just… You’ve been doing this long time too, not that we’re old, you’re younger than me.

Rob Stott: We’re getting there.

Bruce Walker: But the fact that in 2023 TCL is going to have an option of three different 98 inch TVs to purchase to have a choice, and our flagship TV, which puts the industry on notice in terms of performance is looking at sub $10,000. Expensive, but it’s a premium 98 TV-

Rob Stott: That size, yeah.

Bruce Walker: And we’re going to have 90-inch TVs for well less than half of that. Part of our messaging, it seems interesting to me that for years we talk about 98 inch. The Customer’s biggest concern is it’s too big. And we’ve spent a lot of time telling people how big it is.

Rob Stott: Hold on. I thought there was no such thing as too big of a TVs.

Bruce Walker: In my mind, I feel like to watch sports and things like that.

Rob Stott: Wait a second.

Bruce Walker: We want to market these TV and let people know, give them permission to have a TV that big in their house. Obviously we see it as another, why would somebody buy a short throw projector cat? When you can get a TV it’s bigger, but you plug it in, hang it on the wall, put it on a stand just like you would a 50-inch TV. But you get so much more viewing air. What I love about our extremely lot of TVs like our 98 inch, a lot of people are replacing a seven or eight year old 65-inch TV, that back then the bezels were this big.

Rob Stott: You’re talking to me. You’re talking right to me. I’m at that point.

Bruce Walker: You’re looking at-

Rob Stott: I might be popping down there.

Bruce Walker: There you go. When you look at going from in our big screen case from a 65 inch to an 85 inch it’s less than eight inches wider because there’s no bezel anymore, more screen, less cabinet to deal with. And then obviously the picture quality has come through the roof with all the quantum dot, mini LED, local dimming and all those sets. It’s exciting to see people having a choice in TVs that size.

Rob Stott: I’m sitting here counting my walls, trying to figure out how many I can fit.

Bruce Walker: Yeah, absolutely.

Rob Stott: No, that’s incredible. Another big thing that you guys have going on… And I’ll have to… When we get into post pull in your shirt a little bit, you got a pretty cool shirt there, obviously got the TCL logo, but next to it one that I think some people are familiar with. The NFL was at CES earlier this year, and I saw you guys had in your booth quite the events going on.

Bruce Walker: It was fantastic at CES. We had-

Rob Stott: NFL player after NFL player just rolling through that booth, man.

Bruce Walker: Coming through.

Rob Stott: It was so cool.

Bruce Walker: We’re very excited. We announced at the beginning of the year we’re the official partner of the NFL. We’re the official TV partner of the NFL. We’re very proud of the fact that the NFL has chosen us to represent their games the best that they can look and we’re very proud to have that partnership.

In terms of the scale and scope of things, in the past we have amazing partnerships with the TCL Chinese Theater. [foreign language 00:07:04] the Greek freak was brand ambassador for a while. We’ve been out there getting the message out there. But this is really on a whole different level. When you talk about NFL, the Super Bowls, the NFLs is the-

Rob Stott: Most viewed single sporting event in the world.

Bruce Walker: Absolutely. And football’s the only sport that sells TVs. People don’t buy new TVs for the World Series, things like that. People buy new TV-

Rob Stott: I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say the word, but that event that happens in early February that’s when you see those, that’s the big push, right?

Bruce Walker: Absolutely. We can certainly sell… We will sell TV for the big game. And with that partnership, we’ve also got some incredible brand ambassadors, Justin Herbert, DK Metcalf are some of our names are out there. We’re also doing some great partnerships with stadiums, SoFi Stadium, we’ve got the Falcon Stadium, we’ve got up in Seattle-

Rob Stott: CenturyLink or something?

Bruce Walker: Yeah, up in Seattle. We’ve got great partner, so it’s going to be an amazing level of exposure. You mentioned the viewership. Of the top 100 most viewed broadcasts last year, 88 of them were football games.

Rob Stott: And I think so out of a hundred, I think that makes 88% that-

Bruce Walker: Something like that.

Rob Stott: If I’m good at math, something like.

Bruce Walker: Just again, to be associated with such an incredible organization and just the size and scale of things has set the entry on TCLs here to play.

Rob Stott: That’s incredible.

Bruce Walker: Very excited about it.

Rob Stott: For you, talk about what the role that… the name kind of explains it, but being able to work with those brand ambassadors and get them involved.

Bruce Walker: We’re going to be having commercials with Justin Herbert. We’re going to be doing vote shows with videos of him and just people to recognize it was contract extension was just… He’s going to be one of the great quarterbacks in the NFL for a long time to come.

Rob Stott: I think we’ve had what? Five QB contract records set in the last off season. My own Jalen Hurts was one for a minute. For I think a day and a half, he Might’ve been the highest paid quarterback in history.

Bruce Walker: I think it just boils down to really where the rubber meets the road. When we’re in our retail establishment or our partners out here, we have gorgeous new boxes with the players on there. You see players with helmets on that have the team logos. It’s not a blank helmet because we’re official TV partner in the NFL. People are coming up, we had great opportunities, great exposure during the draft. They were doing preseason. Now when the real season kicks off, people are going to go buy a new TV. They’re going to walk in, they’re going to see a bulk stack of TCL with NFL on it. It’s going to make customers much more comfortable with the brand.

For those, again, who haven’t bought a TV in seven or 10 years that are just starting to hear more and more about TCL, they’re going to go, “Okay, so official TV the NFL.” The last TV partner of the NFL, a number four ranked Samsung, I think they’re doing okay.

Rob Stott: Yeah, I think so. I think they did a-okay.

Bruce Walker: It’s great to have this partnership and really bring TCL to the next level.

Rob Stott: You beat me to it in being able to ask it, but it’s awesome, obviously an awesome opportunity for you to be that official partner. The retailer can benefit from this too.

Bruce Walker: Exactly. We’re doing lots of great promotions, a short-term thing. We won’t have much longevity. But as an example, we’re doing a great partnership with Google with NFL Sunday ticket. Depending on TCL TV that you buy, you can get a $200 off NFL Sunday ticket. That’s something that’s great for our retail partners because it’s a free promotion for them, which always helps the bottom line, gives customers incredible value. And there are millions and millions of football fans out there that love NFL Sunday ticket and even RedZone. Which I can’t watch RedZone, it’s exhausting, it’s exhausting.

Rob Stott: Hey listen, I have undiagnosed ADD, so that’s perfect for me.

Bruce Walker: Oh, there you go, that’s perfect.

Rob Stott: It was made for people like me.

Bruce Walker: I’m like, “I want to go pee, I want to go get the wings. I can’t I don’t have time.” It’s so much fun to watch.

Rob Stott: It’s incredible.

Bruce Walker: It’s going to be a great season.

Rob Stott: Bruce, I appreciate this, man. We can see the excitement on the floor behind us. I know I’ve stolen you away for enough time. You got two areas to go cover down there, so I-

Bruce Walker: Exactly, to take care of our customers. Thank you again. Thank you for everything you guys do to not only to support us, but to support your members. They’re the ones here that make it all happen for us. So thank you guys for doing that. It’s great to be here.

Rob Stott: Yeah, absolutely. Until next time.

Bruce Walker: Awesome, man.

Rob Stott: Appreciate you.

Bruce Walker: Thank you. Take care.

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