Reports tell us that fewer TVs are expected to be sold this year than last, and that fewer homes in the U.S. have sets at all. But that doesn't mean that TVs are getting cheaper. In fact, recent research from IHS iSuppli indicates that LCD and plasma TV prices have risen by 11.4 percent since this past December. And if you had your eye on those big-screen OLED TVs previewed at last January's Consumer Electronics Show, new information hints that the expected price of around $8,000 was a little, um, optimistic.
OLED gets real, and really expensive
The OLED TVs revealed by LG and Samsung at CES floored almost all observers -- yours truly included. The picture was that stunning. No pricing was released at the time, but there was no doubt that these sets were going to be expensive, at least to start. That certainly has proved to be right on the money.
Bloomberg reports that 55-inch OLED TVs will indeed become available in the U.S. later this year. Though not officially confirmed by the company, the article says that two sources with knowledge peg the price of LG's version at over $9,000. Bloomberg adds that pricing for Samsung's version will be double what the most expensive 55-inch flat screen sells for in South Korea, or at around $9,400 (U.S.).
If that early-adopters' "tax" is a bit too much to stomach, PC World quotes an NPD DisplaySearch forecast that says that prices for OLED TVs could drop by 50 percent by the end of next year, and to as cheap as $1,500 by the end of 2015. Increased competition could help that prediction come true as The Wall Street Journal reports on a joint effort between struggling TV makers Sony and Panasonic to hop aboard the OLED train before they are left at the station.
Features fatten the bottom line
The rise in TV pricing can be attributed to a couple of factors. For one, the unilateral pricing programs (which forbids authorized retailers from selling specified products below a manufacturer-set price) promised by some makers is beginning to be felt in the marketplace. However iSuppli's research indicates that the spread of formerly high-end features into what were once lower-priced TVs is also playing a significant role. "Feature-rich TV models are responsible for the ongoing surge in prices, especially as consumers clamor for capabilities such as Internet connectivity and LED-backlighting technology," said iSuppli's Tom Morrod.
That doesn't mean bargain hunters are out of luck, however. If you can live without things like Internet connectivity, fast refresh rates and LED backlights, basic LCD TVs with cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) backlights and standard refresh rates (60 Hz) continue to drop in price -- about 6 percent since the end of last year for 40- and 42-inch sets from top brands, iSuppli says.
Fewer homes have TVs
Meanwhile, The Nielsen Company reports that its latest survey of TV ownership revealed that for the first time in 20 years, the number of American homes with TV sets has decreased, says this article in The New York Times. Granted, that doesn't mean that TVs are suddenly disappearing from living rooms as you'll still find a set in 96.7 percent of U.S. homes (down from 98.9 percent).
Nielsen says two different demographics contributed to the decline. One is low income households that were left behind in the digital transition. The other is households populated by those that have become accustomed to getting their TV from online sources and watching programming on laptops, tablets, and even mobile phones. A survey by the Consumer Electronics Industry reports that while TVs remain the most popular device for watching TV programs, computers (laptops and desktops) aren't that far behind. Smartphones and tablets are gaining in video-watching popularity as well, with 30 percent and 17 percent of consumers, respectively, using those devices for that.