Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Flat-Screen TV Prices: Anything but Flat

If you bought a new television during the first four months of this year, you may have paid more than you originally budgeted for.

That’s according to the latest TV Tracker report from IHS iSuppli, which eyes the prices and specifications of TV sets in the U.S. market.

Prices of flat-panel TVs climbed an average of $78 between December and the end of April, the report says, from an average cost of $1,119 — the largest increase during any four-month period in the U.S. TV market over the past year.

Last month, average pricing for U.S. flat-panel televisions, including LCD and plasma sets, reached $1,248, and average prices of 3-D LCD TVs in April rose 3 percent to $2,492.

The price surge contradicts reports from late last year that suggested TV prices could drop in the first half of this year.

“LED-backlit LCD panel prices will likely continue falling in 2012, but at a much slower pace than in the second half of 2011, which will slow retail price erosion,” NPD DisplaySearch said.

Part of the reason for the price surge: Features. The report notes that high-end features like Internet connectivity in “smart” TVs and LED screens have contributed to an 11.4 percent climb in flat-panel prices since December 2011.

Even if consumers weren’t actively looking to buy a fancy TV with all the bells and whistles — because as I noted during the Consumer Electronics Show this past January, some features like 3-D are taking a backseat, and consumers have been somewhat slow to adopt this technology — they may have been persuaded to buy something more expensive.

Retailers have been shifting their strategies and looking to “upsell” customers, iSuppli says.

“Retailers are working to convince buyers to move up to either a larger-sized TV or to one using LED-backlit panels,” the report says, noting that the cost of upgrading to a bigger-screen TV has been greater than the upgrade cost of going with the same-sized screen, but in LED. “The larger price premium for upgrading to a bigger TV size indicates the market was aware that buyers were willing to shell out more money to obtain larger-sized sets over a similar-sized TV model with LED backlighting.”

For consumers that have held off but are still in the market for a new TV, it’s not all bad news: In the second quarter of the year, sellers are expected to close the price gap between certain features, to maybe a 10 percent premium per feature. Which means some buyers might be able to have their big-screen smart TV and eat their 3-D LED, too.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr/Best Buy CA)

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