Panasonic’s TV business just hasn’t been that great these last years. Along with fellow former Japanese champion Sony, a combination of a strangely strong yen and increased competition from South Korea’s Samsung LG have lead to a huge operating loss. Despite high quality products, Panasonic has shut down LCD production and is still talking about getting out of the plasma business as well.
Arguably the most valuable international consumer electronics asset that Panasonic has right now is its Blu-ray patent portfolio and related technologies. Contrary to popular belief, Panasonic, not Sony, holds the biggest piece of the royalty pie with Blu-ray, and much of the tech can be applied to streaming and other interactive entertainment platforms (Panasonic was the sole author of 3D titles in the early days of that format, for example).
Most people in the US don’t realize how massive the brands we only see at Best Buy really are. Go to Japan and you’ll ride in a Hitachi elevator, build a house with a Toshiba backhoe, and get an MRI in a Panasonic machine. Panasonic can get out of the TV business and still have plenty of places to go. I’m a big fan of its TVs and Blu-ray equipment, though, so I hope things are going to get better this year and keep them in the game for the foreseeable future. And that seems to be the attitude that President Kazuhiro Tsuga is adopting, as well, saying that Panasonic’s exit from consumer electronics would be a “last resort.”