Sony splits TV business in three as trouble persists

By dividing its ailing TV division into three parts, the company says it can better determine which units are working out well, and which are not.

Don Reisinger
Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
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Sony has decided to split its television business in three as part of a broader strategy on the company's part to turn the ailing division around.

According to Reuters, which first reported the news, the three units will be LCD TVs, outsourcing operations, and next-generation TVs. The split, which will become official tomorrow, is designed to help the company "make clearer the mission and responsibilities" of the units, a company spokeswoman told Reuters in an interview published today.

Sony shareholders have been calling on the company to fix its television business for years. As Reuters points out, unless a miracle occurs in the fourth quarter, Sony's television operation will post a loss for the eight-straight year in 2011. Those losses, compounded by a continued inability on Sony's part to match its chief competitors, Vizio and Samsung, have caused shareholders to call on the company to sell the TV division.

But that hasn't stopped Sony's second-in-command, Kazuo Hirai, from continuing to assert that the division has some life in it. In fact, Hirai firmly believes that televisions are central to Sony's chances of succeeding in the future.

"We all know it's a challenging business, but that doesn't equate to 'We should be out of the TV business,' " Hirai told The Wall Street Journal in August. "The question that needs to be asked, which I am trying to engage in very aggressively, is, 'What does it take to turn the business around?' as opposed to, 'Let's leave the business or other options.'"

Hirai's case for keeping the television division might have become less convincing earlier this month when reports cropped up, saying Sony was recalling Bravia televisions that were produced and sold since 2007 over a malfunction that could cause them to melt. All told, the BBC reported at the time, 1.6 million sets worldwide are affected by the flaw.

Sony did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.