* Sony says 46-inch 3D model to sell for about $3,875
* Panasonic, Samsung and other rivals also launching 3D TVs
* Sony aims to sell 25 mln LCD TVs in ‘10/11, up 67 pct yr/yr
* 3D TVs seen as demand catalyst for electronics makers
* Sony shares end up 1.1 pct at 17-month high in flat market (Adds analyst comments, 3D TV demand outlook, closing share price, details)
By Kiyoshi Takenaka
TOKYO, March 9 (Reuters) - Sony Corp 6758.T will launch 3D televisions in June, entering an increasingly crowded market that is betting the revolutionary TV will become the next hot product in the electronics industry.
The maker of Bravia flat TVs hopes 3D models to make up 10 percent of more than 25 million LCD TVs it aims to sell in the next financial year.
Sony’s Chief Executive Howard Stringer holds high hopes of a shift to 3D as it will likely give a boost to many of its business operations, which range from TVs, digital cameras and Blu-ray DVD players to video games.
“Sony is a formidable competitor to Samsung because it is leading the game industry. It will likely be ardent game players who will first buy 3D TVs as an early adopter,” said Alex Oh, an analyst at Hanwha Securities in Seoul.
“In that sense, Sony, which is envisioning a comprehensive entertainment company, will take advantage of its game business, contents and movies, compared with Samsung and LG which remain focused on hardwares.”
Behind industry leader Samsung Electronics Co Ltd 005930.KS, Sony is vying with LG Electronics Inc 066570.KS for the position as the world's No.2 flat TV maker. The maker of the PlayStation 3 game console plans to release 3D game software around June in time for TV launch.
Last month, Samsung started offering 3D TVs in South Korea and said it would launch them globally this month with the aim of selling at least 2 million 3D TVs this year.
Panasonic Corp 6752.T, the fourth-largest, plans to launch its 3D TVs in the United States on Wednesday and says it will cooperate with top U.S. electronics retailer Best Buy Co BBY.N in promoting them. [ID:nTOE627083]
Many TV makers hope the new technology will be as big a boost for the industry as the transition to color TVs from black and white.
However, some analysts noted many consumers have only just unboxed new high-definition TV screens, making them unwilling to spend on another upgrade any time soon.
FROM THEATRE TO LIVING ROOM
Sony will begin selling 3D TVs in Japan on June 10 and plans to launch in the overseas market around the same time.
The electronics and entertainment conglomerate expects a model with a 46-inch screen to sell for 350,000 yen ($3,875) including two pairs of 3D glasses, a 52-percent premium over its latest regular LCD TV with a comparable screen size.
Following the midday announcement in Tokyo, shares of Sony extended recent gains and ended up 1.1 percent at 3,330 yen, a 17-month closing high. The benchmark Nikkei average .N225 fell 0.2 percent.
Sony shares have been on an uptrend in recent weeks after its TV operations posted a quarterly profit for the first time in two years in October-December, raising hopes the business could book a first annual profit in seven years in the new year from April.
The more than 25 million LCD TVs Sony aims to sell in the next financial year compared with its own forecast of 15 million it plans to sell in the financial year ending this month.
“We at Sony will liberate 3D from the confines of movie theatres and make it something that people can enjoy at home,” Sony Senior Vice President Yoshihisa Ishida told a news conference.
The sci-fi blockbuster “Avatar” and other recent titles have sparked massive interest in 3D movies, and electronics makers are now rushing to get flat panel TVs with three-dimensional visual effects to the market.
Global demand for 3D TVs will likely reach 15.6 million units in 2013 from an estimated 1.2 million units this year, according to research firm DisplaySearch. ($1 = 90.31 Yen) (Additional reporting by Kim Yeon-hee in SEOUL, Taiga Uranaka in TOKYO; Editing by Jean Yoon)