Sony prohibits Internet sales for its ES line

Ah, Sony. I don’t know of any other company I have loved for so long and yet had to endure their constant poor judgment and lame, backfiring strategy. When I was young, we didn’t have a TV, we had a “Trinitron”, but now Sony has long since been eclipsed by companies as varied as LG and Apple in the consumer electronics market.
And here’s what’s weird: it’s sure not from lack of trying. Sony has some of the very best designers and researchers in the world and every year they wow people at the Consumer Electronics Show and elsewhere. But somehow their brand has long since stopped being synonymous with cool, hip, state-of-the-art.
The latest experiment from Sony is with its new high-end “ES” (“Elevated Standard”) (no, really, that’s what it stands for) series of audio/visual receivers and Blu-ray players. Based on a report in TWICE, Sony is going to limit sales of these product lines to custom installers and A/V specialty retailers while prohibiting sales over the Internet, including through Sony’s own SonyStyle.com online store.
Now these aren’t $10,000 ultra-high-end home theater components for the richest of the very rich, they’re multizone receivers in the $1000-$2000 price range. The Blu-ray players sound even more interesting, with a $399 suggested retail price entry device, the ES Blu-ray players will all have built-in wi-fi, iphone/ipod app and Quick Start startup, along with IR input and 3D compatibility and built-in Netflix, Pandora, YouTube and Crackle software for streaming directly onto your TV.
Given that online retail outlets like Amazon.com have Blu-ray players that range from ridiculously cheap up to thousands of dollars, include the $1400 Sony Blu-ray “mega changer” and $1500 Sony (BDP-S5000ES) Blu-ray Disc Player. To explain the latter’s appearance on Amazon, I believe it’s because it’s a 2009 model year ES player: it’s the 2010 ES lineup that will be unavailable online.

sony bdps1000es blu ray disc player

Still, I find this baffling. A Blu-ray player is a plug-and-play commodity component, why wouldn’t Sony want to maximize its sales by making it as widely available as possible?
TWICE explains:

“The ES distribution change “will help reinvigorate” the specialty and custom channels, reward those installers and specialists “who have been loyal to Sony for many years,” and provide an opportunity for ES to expand its custom/specialty dealer base, said Brian Siegel, VP of Sony’s home A/V group.
“ES has been for the past few years essentially widely distributed” and available through “many national accounts” and Internet sellers, Siegel said. A/V specialists and installers, he continued, have said ES offers great products and programs but that the previous distribution strategy “made it easier to do business with other manufacturers.”
“Sony ES “should be the No. 1 AVR brand in the specialty channel, and this [distribution strategy] is a way to do that,” Siegel asserted.”

Really? So they’re willing to basically hide their new flagship ES line from the majority of consumers who do research and shop online in the interest of “reinvigorating” the specialty channels?
I haven’t stepped foot in a specialty or custom channel store in years. I have done my research online and purchased my TV, Blu-ray player, iPod docks, computers, and just about every other piece of consumer electronics from online vendors. How about you?
Btw, I am definitely interested in learning more about the new ES Blu-ray player line, so I’ll keep my eye out for more information. I’m just afraid that without subscribing to a high end audio/video magazine I’ll never see anything now…

4 comments on “Sony prohibits Internet sales for its ES line

  1. Dave,
    It’s an interesting marketing technique I’ve run into in my own house. We currently have 7 Russsound speakers in the ceiling of the family room where our TV is located. We had 6.1 surround sound (don’t ask why) installed 5 years ago during a remodel of the room (among other parts of the house). Earlier this year we decided to move the TV to above the fireplace which changed the configuration of the entire room. Because we didn’t want the rather large center channel speaker sticking off the mantle we called the installer again. I had done the research and could only get the speakers through him. There are no retail sales of the particular speaker we own. So I paid him to install two more in the ceiling. One for the center channel in front of the TV and one in the ceiling roughly where the old center channel speaker was. These speakers are really top notch and I wanted them all to match. The only recourse was to pay the installer to put in two more. I tried more than one installer and they won’t sell them without the installation job.

  2. Nearly 10 years ago I put together a nice Sony ES home entertainment system, all purchased online. Recently I have began looking into a replacement for the Sony ES DVD/SACD player since it obviously didn’t have Blu-ray. I have been searching for a while with no luck and finding your article here explains why. I’m tired of Sony’s bonehead moves…They already pissed me off when they crippled SACD from the start with their insane lack of support of their own high quality audio format. I think I’m just going to give another brand a try.

  3. This is insane. I love Sony products. The PS3 is the best blu-ray player period. I assume anyone wanting a Sony ES receiver will have to pay for an install, that is just crazy!

  4. By far the most favorite part for me about going to the Sony Only brick and mortar store was that they had 6 separate listening rooms where you could take your time and audition whatever models of the latest Sony Audio gear you happened to be interested in. The gear on display which was available for audition ran the gamut from one room where they had 7 different models of Sony DE class Receivers to another custom built listening room where anyone could bring their own Music, get comfortable in the plush leather chair and sample the sonic splendor of the SCD-1, TA E-1, TA N-1, SS M-9ED SACD Reference System.

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