212: How Much Better Can TVs Get? We Ask TCL That Very Question.

Written by Rob Stott

April 16, 2024

TCL independent thinking podcast

The TV market is a truly fascinating one to follow. Screen sizes continue to get bigger and picture quality continues to get more vibrant and clearer. But how much better can these displays actually get? We sat down with Bruce Walker, product evangelist at TCL, to get a – ahem – clearer picture of what’s in store for TV technology.


Rob Stott: All right, we are back on the Independent Thinking Podcast, and you know it’s a primetime when we’re talking to Mr. Bruce Walker of TCL, Product Evangelist. Mr. Walker, how you doing?

Bruce Walker: Great, thanks. Thanks for having me back, Rob. It’s always fun-

Rob Stott: Always.

Bruce Walker: … to come here to talk to you. It’s a fun show in Vegas. It’s always excited, it’s great to be back.

Rob Stott: Can’t go wrong. So how are things on… We’ll start right at primetime. How are things on the floor for you guys? What’s the show looking like?

Bruce Walker: Very fun, very exciting stuff. Our big partners is at work, our distributor partner here. And between their customer base and the customer base that you bring in, incredible relationships. Really, acceptance is a word that keeps coming to mind with me. We’ve been doing this a long time with TCL where people would walk in and squint and go, oh, and try to remember it. Now, again they’re looking at us in different lights. We have lots of exciting stuff happening at TCL to make that happen.

Rob Stott: How’s business right now? We’re coming off of the hot time of year, right? Super Bowl season.

Bruce Walker: Yeah, absolutely, super Bowl is great for us. We’ll talk about that a little bit, the exciting part. But in terms of how it’s business, getting great, it’s fantastic. As of end of 2023, we ended up number two in unit sales for the fifth year in a row. Very exciting. A very telling statistic that I’m excited about is we went from number five to number three in revenue share.

Rob Stott: Oh wow.

Bruce Walker: So that’s to me, indicating that we’re selling our good commodity stuff, that’s fantastic, but people are accepting us to want to have a nice big TCL TV in their living room. So that’s very exciting news for us.

Rob Stott: Well, I contribute, I have to say since we last talked, I don’t think I ever told you this, I contributed to that.

Bruce Walker: All right, thank you very much.

Rob Stott: We added a little bit. It’s cool to be able to go into a store and see that brand. I know the last time we did talk, it was the start of it. Right before, right? Preseason might’ve been going on, but right before the official kickoff of the NFL season. So to be able to walk into a store, see that brand, it hits you, man.

Bruce Walker: Yeah, you see the boxes.

Rob Stott: You see boxes alongside other brands and you got, I think mine had DK Metcalf on it.

Bruce Walker: Yeah, okay, yeah, yeah.

Rob Stott: So to be able to see these known names on the packaging, I know you were just diving into your first NFL season with that partnership. So coming out the other side, 17-week season in the Super Bowl, we haven’t went through the playoffs since the last time we talked, so crazy.

Bruce Walker: It’s absolutely amazing. I mean, the season itself wasn’t something-

Rob Stott: We could have a whole separate episode.

Bruce Walker: Talking about talking the Patriots and-

Rob Stott: Not that I’d want to with the Eagles either.

Bruce Walker: Right.

Rob Stott: I mean, what a collapse.

Bruce Walker: Oh my god, that’s crazy, but yeah, it was amazing season for us. Amazing partnership with the NFL. Again, having customers walk into a store and see a football player with a helmet, with a team logo and it’s an actual football player, resonates. One of the stats we heard, last year, 88 of the top 100 most watched broadcasts were football games. So to have that partnership coming out of CES, the big partner, we had amazing things going on at the Super Bowl, we had events there. The biggest takeaway from me of that that just made me so excited is we did a Super Bowl experience, that it was a convention center in Mandalay Bay twice the size of this.

Rob Stott: Yeah, absolutely.

Bruce Walker: Everybody was there doing stuff and we actually, we had set up a desk similar to this where we would have NFL broadcasters here and an attendee could sit here and call a play on the recording. What I liked is I hung on the outside watching people walk by and the attitude they walked by, they’d be like, oh, TCL’s doing this broadcast, this and that and the TVs. It wasn’t like, who is TCL? Why are they here? It’s like they’re walking by the Toyota booth, they recognize the name and accepted us. So, it was really exciting for us.

Rob Stott: I wonder if some of those fans… So it was like they got the chance to do color commentary.

Bruce Walker: Absolutely, yeah.

Rob Stott: I wonder if they did a better job than Tony Romo fumbling over-

Bruce Walker: Oh my God.

Rob Stott: … Jim Nance at the end of the Super Bowl, man.

Bruce Walker: Exactly, right.

Rob Stott: What a season, not to dive too deep into NFL season, but what a season to pick too, with everything Taylor Swift and what she brought to the league.

Bruce Walker: Oh my God.

Rob Stott: And more eyeballs. I can only imagine the unintended additional marketing that-

Bruce Walker: Oh, the audience.

Rob Stott: … and audience that you guys achieved.

Bruce Walker: That’s, when you look at the demographics and you look at who TV companies need to appeal to now, you look at her audience, boom, that’s awesome. Yeah, what a great season.

Rob Stott: Absolutely, and you mentioned the busy CES, right? There was a lot of product intros for you guys.

Bruce Walker: Oh man, we are very excited.

Rob Stott: So for those that missed the news or didn’t see what happened at CES, give us that little recap of what… Because you had what, Mini LED, a massive what? 115 inch?

Bruce Walker: 115 inch, yeah.

Rob Stott: TV, all kinds of soundbars. Incredible.

Bruce Walker: Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, whole new lineup for us this year. Again, I could talk for a half hour and I won’t go into the details. We can do another one to follow up. But the big takeaway again is big, bigger and better. We’ve gotten our booth, you might’ve seen our 98-inch is on display here. Incredibly affordable, easy to get access to, and really letting people know that that mindset is, oh, if they have to settle for the 85, you’re still getting an 85 inch TV. Really, those large screen sizes that are exciting because back in my day, how close you sat was determined by the resolution. You can’t sit too close because you’ll see all the pixels. Now with so much 4K content, now we’re switching to talking about immersion. So you want to sit a 98 inch TV, you want to sit nine feet from it and get that looking out the window look. So we’ve done that.

We actually introduced 115 inch TV coming to market, the world’s largest QD Mini LED. We’re really leveraging our strengths as being vertically integrated. We make our own stuff. So we’ve got a whole new line of Q-class TVs or Quantum Dot TVs. We introduced the world’s first big screen Quantum Dot TV in 2015, so on the forefront there.

We’re really trying to redefine Mini LED as a great solution for customers because like everything our industry does, the water’s gotten a little muddied about what Mini LED is, and you can have an underperforming Mini LED, but the fact tag says Mini LED on it. So we’re trying to say TCL’s, Mini LED TVs are QD Mini LED. Which means you’re going to have a substantial number of Mini LEDs, a substantial number of zones, a substantial amount of brightness because there’s a… like sometimes we did with contrast ratio. Again, sometimes the numbers got a little crazy, but we’re understanding that we want a bright TV, not necessarily, you don’t need a 5,000 nit TV to watch the ball game. You want for those little specular highlights, that explosion, that lightning bolt, and that’s we’re looking to leverage that and just get that big performance envelope.

Rob Stott: I am glad you’re diving into content too, because how are you… 4K, it feels like we’re getting there with 4K. YouTube TV’s streaming in 4K, all these services adding 4K to what they’re doing, their packages. How are you feeling about content on the 4K side?

Bruce Walker: It’s fantastic, it’s amazing to see. Like I said, there’s some in the world of streaming, there’s some, oh if you want 4K, it’s a couple extra bucks a month. There’s a little bit of that learning curve about what the market wants, but yeah.

Rob Stott: It’s available.

Bruce Walker: All the streaming services, everything from Hulu and Netflix down to Paramount, HBO Max, all those things like that. Then everything you’re seeing, more and more HDR content, which I think is just as big a benefit as resolution is that high dynamic range.

Rob Stott: Right, exactly.

Bruce Walker: Brighter colors, more vivid colors, they’re doing that as well. So it’s very exciting now that the streaming and that we’ve really pivoted to that cutting the cord thing is very exciting.

Rob Stott: No, absolutely. I know too, that gets us into the conversation of 8K is around, right? So are we going to play… Where are we there? What’s the conversation there?

Bruce Walker: There’s always been, so we had 8K TVs two years ago, and it’s just waiting for a market maturation. I think it’s going to be a little bit slower of a roll than 4K was just like it’s that pipeline, getting that pipeline out there to get it. But we’ve had it, we’re ready when the market is.

Rob Stott: Well, the other thing too is, TVs do a great job, the smart processing within internally, a lot of that upscaling to be able to get the content to match or maybe not match per se, but get very close to the content.

Bruce Walker: Absolutely, and that’s another big thing we announced this year. Candidly, in the world of processing and motion handling and all that, to me, a lot of people, the enthusiasts say like, Sony’s here and then there’s everybody else not quite as good as Sony. We’ve made really big strides and we actually this year we’re going to have three levels of our AIPQ processor to handle the up conversion, the motion handling, the thousands. We’re going to have a TV with 20,000 zones of local dimming. You need horsepower and a processor to be able to do that. So we’re proud that we’ve made really big strides. Again, that’s all part of our vertical integration, that it’s our chip being able to do everything with panels, the back lights and all that.

Rob Stott: Absolutely, and I know too, the consumer in me, the TV consumer in me, the numbers, the 4K, aka 16K, I know has a lot to do with pixel, how condensed they are, capacity, that sort of thing, and screen size.

Bruce Walker: Absolutely.

Rob Stott: Able to go bigger, right?

Bruce Walker: Yep.

Rob Stott: Is there ever a point where you feel like there’s diminishing, it’s not going to look better?

Bruce Walker: It’s really the screen size really is about the immersion. I said all of our large screen towers are 4K. We’re saying you can sit 11 feet away from your 115 inch.

Rob Stott: That’s nuts.

Bruce Walker: That’s fantastic. That again, that’s-

Rob Stott: Put you in the world.

Bruce Walker: It really, it’s changing the conversation about short throw projectors and stuff. You can hang that TV in your wall and not worry about Keystone and not worry about hitting the projector and not worry about ambient light. That’s really where we’re targeting the true home theater and enthusiasts with TVs and this giant screen size.

Rob Stott: Yeah, well and the funny thing is, bigger seems to be the innovation, but in reality there’s so much more behind the scenes. So while necessarily the sizing of a TV might seem like the only innovation happening, it’s really not. I have to imagine for you and the world you’ve been in throughout your career, this has to be, is this one of the more exciting times to be in?

Bruce Walker: It’s a golden era. I mean, we’ve looked back and we lived through 3D and curved. There was a dubious customer benefit, but now it’s HDR.

Rob Stott: It’s legit innovation.

Bruce Walker: The people that make content love Dolby Vision as much as the consumer, and everybody in between realized it’s a real benefit. So to-

Rob Stott: It’s interesting, because so much innovation in consumer tech always felt… You look around, it’s like shapes and size of this of the product and what it looks like, not so much what it does. For the TV, innovation in the space has become all about what it does.

Bruce Walker: It’s picture quality, absolutely. They say it’s a golden era now between having content to feed the TVs, that allows us to ramp things up and make better performing TVs for customers.

Rob Stott: It’s awesome man. Well, excited to have you on and catch up for a little bit and we could tell, we’ll have to do one dive deep into the tech.

Bruce Walker: Absolutely.

Rob Stott: All that sort of stuff.

Bruce Walker: Anytime you’re ready, absolutely.

Rob Stott: Get a little geeky on and nerdy on display, so.

Bruce Walker: Yeah, absolutely.

Rob Stott: This was fantastic.

Bruce Walker: Always, thank you for having me. Great time as always, a great show. Thank you. Obviously, all of your customers, our shared customers, are what make this event spectacular. Great, great group of folks.

Rob Stott: Great catching up.

Bruce Walker: All right, thank you.

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