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Sony once again won’t have any new televisions at CES

Sony A95L QD-OLED Review
Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

For the second year in a row, Sony will not be showing its new TVs at CES in Las Vegas. Should you be worried? Absolutely not. And I’m not just going to tell you why — I’m going to show you how Sony’s 2024 TVs are gonna be lit. Literally.

I’ve been waiting to share what I’ve learned for a little over six weeks. That may not sound like a long time, but for me, it’s felt like an eternity. I think this is pretty exciting stuff.

Today, I get to share with you that, after years of keeping its LED and mini-LED backlight technology — and how it works — a very closely guarded secret, Sony has finally brought it out of the darkness and into the light. It’s given us an inside look as to how its new backlight tech works.

The story goes that in November 2023, video producer Zeke Jones and I traveled to Tokyo to take part in a very small press trip hosted by Sony. There was a little sightseeing and a lot of food. But most of our time not spent on a bus (or a very brief 10 minutes on the bullet train) was spent at Sony’s headquarters, where we got to go behind the scenes and learn about what Sony is up to, and how Sony does what it does.

Some of what we learned on that trip is still hush-hush, and I’ll have more news to share this spring. But first, let’s talk about the impending elephant in the room. Or elephant that’s not in the room. The elephant is the new Sony TVs. The room is CES.

Sony is doing just fine

First, let me unequivocally dispel myths I’ve seen circulating in forums and comment sections about Sony being in some kind of trouble or otherwise struggling. I’m here to tell you that Sony is doing just fine.

For context, let’s travel back to 2015, as Sony was still clawing back from the devastating effects of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami, among some other challenges. At a press conference that year, then-Sony Electronics President Mike Fasulo told me that Sony was going to lean hard into “premium.” This was big news at the time because Sony, once a household name in TV, had taken a market share hit from new competition coming out of South Korea — notably Samsung and LG.

It became clear that Sony was going to stop chasing market share dominance and instead was going to turn its attention to capturing and holding a large chunk of the premium TV space. And it has, as TV enthusiasts know. Sony’s TVs routinely win lots of Editor’s Choice awards and shootouts.

Should you spend more for a Sony TV? Why Sony TVs cost more

This all-premium approach is a big part of why the so-called Sony Tax exists.

The point is Sony is holding its own in the North American TV space, and Sony electronics isn’t hurting at all. Even if it was hurting in the TV space, Sony’s camera division could probably prop up the rest of the business.

So, no, the reason Sony isn’t attending CES the way it used to isn’t because it’s on the struggle bus. Frankly, though, the reasons Sony has changed its approach to CES are, well, for us consumers, a little bit boring, honestly.

Soaking up the spotlight

Sony is a huge corporation, and it’s doing a lot of interesting work in mobility. Its whole CES 2023 press conference was titled “moving people forward,” and the Afeela car it’s developing in partnership with Honda was the central fixture – speaking of, I saw the SUV version of that car in Tokyo and it was pretty awesome.

Yasuhide Mizuno, representative director, chairman and CEO of Sony Honda Mobility Inc., introduces the Afeela EV.
Yasuhide Mizuno, representative director, chairman, and CEO of Sony Honda Mobility Inc., introduces the Afeela EV at CES 2023. That was the big Sony news last year, with no new TVs announced at the show in Las Vegas. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Then there’s Sony Pictures, Sony Imaging, and a growing list of business partnerships. In short, Sony has a lot of divisions and a lot of coals in the fire. What I’m told is that Sony sees CES as an opportunity to talk about some big-picture corporate stuff while it’s got this bright spotlight on the global stage that is CES. It gets one of the world’s loudest microphones for about an hour, and it is (again) using it strategically.

Frankly, I would rather see fancy new TVs and get excited for what’s coming later in the year. But I can’t fault Sony for its strategy here.

Here’s the other thing: CES is a loud, noisy place. And I don’t just mean it’s physically loud — though it is. When I say noisy, I mean the massive volume of news and videos and tech media coverage coming out of CES is just insane and overwhelming. It’s hard to keep track of all the news coming out of that show. It’s fun to watch and talk about — that’s why we go. But there’s so much information coming out of there that for any company, it’s a crap shoot as to whether what you say is going to get noticed by the people you want to notice it.

CES 2019 Booth Sony
Digital Trends

Why not, then, have your own, independent press event for TVs and hold it a couple of months after CES, when there’s very little tech news going on and you can own headlines for a few days?

From a business perspective, this is pretty smart — so long as you don’t lose sales by coming out with products later in the year than your competition. So far, that tactic doesn’t appear to have caused Sony any problems. (And for what it’s worth, it’s what the phone manufacturers learned to do years ago. To wit: Samsung’s first Unpacked event of 2024 is scheduled for January 17.)

So, that’s what’s up with Sony’s business. There will be plenty to come in 2024. Just not at CES.

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