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By Graham Earnshaw, Reuters

TOKYO, July 16, Reuter – The race to produce ever-bigger televisions is hotting up in Japan, and one company unveiled a monster machine today and proclaimed it the world’s largest picture-tube TV set.

At two million yen (13,400 dollars), the Matsushita Corporation set is also one of the world’s most expensive.

Market analysts said its 43-inch (109-cm) screen was in line with a trend in Japan towards big-screen home entertainment.

Giant screens have become all the rage as increasingly affluent consumers trade in their smaller sets for something better.

“There’s an increased perception among consumers that they need to have better quality pictures,” analyst Darrel Whitten of Prudential-Bache Securities told Reuters.

“Watching a large TV, you can really get involved in a movie, which is hard to do on a small screen TV. With a large screen TV, all that’s missing is the popcorn,” he added.

Matsushita, which produces sets under the National brand, said sets with 22-inch (56-cm) screens and larger accounted for 13 per cent of Japan’s TV market last year, but that share would jump to 22 per cent this year.

“The market for medium-size TVs is shrinking while the big and small ends are increasing,” a Matsushita spokesman said.

He added that the new 43-inch mammoth, which weighs in at 310 pounds (140 kg) will not be mass-produced. Units will be built on request only.

Most major manufacturers now have sets with 30-inch (76 cm) screens and larger in their regular lines selling from around 200,000 yen (1,300 dollars) and upwards.

“The question is where are you going to put these monsters, but evidently people are making room for them,” said stock analyst Whitten.

He said manufacturers were pushing the larger sets because of the vastly larger profit margins they enjoy on them.

Price competition in Japan for sets under 20 inches (50 cm) is extremely keen, and getting sharper with increasing imports of smaller sets made elsewhere in East Asia, particularly South Korea and Taiwan.

Will television sets get even bigger? Japanese television makers think so.

“The size preferred by consumers in Japan, the United States and other markets is getting bigger and bigger,” said Sony Corporation spokesman Harry Machida.

“It’s a matter of increasing quality and decreasing price,” he said.

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