Most Americans shopping for a TV have heard of Panasonic, Sharp, and Sony, the big three Japanese brands. By the time they buy, most have seen models from South Korea’s Samsung and LG, the global leaders. More obscure in the U.S. are these companies’ Chinese counterparts, such as Skyworth, TCL, Changhong, and Hisense. Yet Hisense has grown into the No. 4 seller of TVs worldwide, according to DisplaySearch, an arm of market researcher NPD Group. It’s targeting early adopters in the U.S. as it seeks to become No. 3.
Based in Qingdao in northeast China, Hisense has 6.4 percent of the global TV market, DisplaySearch estimates, up from 5.1 percent a year ago. That puts it well behind No. 1 Samsung’s 29.6 percent and No. 2 LG’s 17 percent but within striking distance of Sony, which has 6.8 percent. Hisense has been spreading its money around: It sponsors an Australian Open tennis arena and a pro soccer team in Germany. In the U.S. it has struck deals with big-box retailers and, more symbolically, took over the 9,600 square feet of space that used to belong to Microsoft at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “If we want to survive, Hisense has to become a global company,” says Lan Lin, Hisense’s executive in charge of international strategy.