By Matthew Henry

SYDNEY: Panasonic has unveiled its first range of full high definition plasmas which includes Australia’s first 58-inch plasma, which the company hopes will give it a competitive edge as the big screen plasma market continues to expand.

The 58 inch model was launched today as part of the company’s first range of full HD plasmas, which includes a 42-inch model – quite possibly the industry’s first 42-inch plasma with full HD resolution.

According to Panasonic, its lead in the plasma category has grown this year to 39 per cent market share following a strong pick up in plasma sales during June off the back of the company’s plasma marketing campaign.

“June 2007 was an historic milestone for the market, with more plasma TVs sold in Australia than in any other month since their introduction. Panasonic is currently clear market leader in plasma at 39 per cent,” said Panasonic director – consumer electronics group, Paul Reid.

GfK figures quoted by Reid suggest plasma has attained over 61 per cent market share in the 37-inch and above screen size category, leaving LCD as the smaller player in the big-screen market.

The last six months has also seen a further consumer shift to larger screen sizes, with sales of 50-inch plasmas now representing 31 per cent of the plasma market.

Panasonic is trying to tap into this demand by expanding its range offering above 50 inches and has introduced the industry’s first 58-inch plasma to provide another step in the range, which tops out at 65 inches.

“This new screen size perfectly bridges the gap between the 50 and 65-inch models to meet the demand for the big-screen plasma experience,” said Reid.

New features in the full HD plasma range include 1920x1080p resolution, 16-bit digital processing, up to 68.7 billion viewable colours and 66 per cent longer panel, which has been inceared from 60,000 hours to 100,000 hours – the equivalent of eight hours of viewing each day for 35 years.

The range will include the 42-inch TH-42PZ700A (RRP $4,399) due in October; the 50-inch TH-PZ700A (RRP $5,499) due in September; the 58-inch TH-58PZ700A (RRP $9,899) due in September; and the new flagship 65-inch model, the TH-65PZ700A (price TBA), which will be available in November.

Panasonic will revive its plasma marketing campaign featuring Matt Shirvington during the Rugby World Cup next month with new television commercials featuring the Australian Olympic sprinter and Wallabies stars.

The company also plans to continue with another round of television commercials during the Christmas period featuring Shirvington.