From big to giant: Behemoth TVs start to take off

Behemoth TVs start to take off

AP Retail WriterJuly 1, 2014 

NEW YORK -- Supersized isn't just for french fries.

Americans increasingly are replacing their once-enviable 50-inch TVs with even bigger screens. Think: 65-inches and up.

People are snagging big screens -- pushing sales of them up 50 percent in the past year while overall TV sales have faltered.

As prices fall, hardcore TV watchers and video gamers are finding sets affordable that a few years ago would have been playthings for wealthier people.

Jarvis Jackson, for instance, plans to spend up to $1,500 for a 65-inch TV with Internet capability. Jackson, who lives in Birmingham, Ala., says he'll scale back on dining out and postpone other purchases to make room in his budget.

"You definitely can tell the difference between a 55-inch and a larger size TV," says Jackson. "To get the right TV is important, especially when football season is coming up."

Shoppers like Jackson are being enticed by new technologies like Internet capability that allows Netflix streaming, and Ultra HD screens, which offer a sharper picture.

Falling prices have also made big screens more accessible to the average person: TV prices overall have fallen 9 to 11 percent, and the average price of a 50-inch TV is down $75 from two years ago to $573, according to research firm NPD Group.

"TVs are more affordable than they've ever been, so a 'supersized' TV today is still far less expensive than smaller screens were three or four years ago," says Jamie Bastian, a spokeswoman for Target, which expanded its selection of big-screen TVs to include 70-inch versions this year, up from last year's 60 inches.

Although TVs 65 inches or bigger account for just 2 percent of sets sold, they're the bright spot in a market that has been slumping in part because more people are using tablets and cellphones to stream movies and TV shows.

Overall, TVs 50 inches and bigger accounted for 25 percent of the sets sold in the past 12 months, up from 14 percent in 2012. NPD expects the figure to reach 30 percent this year.

While overall TV sales have dropped as much as 10 percent annually since 2010, big-screen TVs have become the fastest-growing category.

During the fiscal year that ended in April, 800,000 65-inch TVs or larger were sold, a 69 percent jump. That equated to a 50 percent increase to $1.6 billion in sales in a TV market totaling an estimated $18 billion.

Lower-income shoppers are accounting for a larger share of the supersized TVs.

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