Why Americans are buying more TVs

One research group says we're more likely to buy a new television now than at any time since 2002. Constantly updated technology and features are spurring sales.

By Jason Notte Jan 14, 2013 5:48PM
Image: Watching television (image100/Corbis)Remember when you'd buy a television and expect it to last about a decade? Yeah, that doesn't happen anymore.

Even as Americans settle into the idea of parting with clunky cathode-ray tube televisions in favor of something with a crisper, more rectangular picture, new technology may prompt that next TV purchase sooner than they expect.

All Things D recently unveiled some data from Frank N. Magid Associates indicating that American consumers are more likely to buy a new television than they've been since 2002.

It also not only says they're buying more sets, but implies that the time it takes them to replace an old set is decreasing. Quartz asserts that set-top boxes like Apple (AAPL) TV, Roku, Boxee and even game consoles like Sony's (SNE) PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's (MSFT) Xbox 360 should provide quick updates for aging televisions, but that hasn't made viewers hang on to their sets any longer. (Microsoft owns and publishes moneyNOW, an MSN Money site.)

Market research firm NPD DisplaySearch discovered that, in the last year, the average replacement cycle for a television has fallen from 8.4 years to 6.9 years. While much of that turnover still comes from households around the world replacing tube televisions with flatscreens, there's been a recent desire to upsize and upgrade current flatscreens as well.

"We are also observing mature markets, such as the U.S., the UK, and others, replacing their first-generation flat panel TVs," said Riddhi Patel, NPD DisplaySearch research director, in a release. "Overall, LCD TVs in the range of 32-44 inches are the most popular for planned purchases."

While 31% of households worldwide are planning to replace an existing TV, 22% are planning to add a new TV. The reasons why are as clear as the screens at the latest Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. NPD DisplaySearch is estimating that global television sales were down 6% last year from 2011 thanks largely to economic conditions. However, a march away from plasma television technology dropped sales of those TVs by an estimated 24% as buyers drifted toward newer offerings.

The problem is that for each new advance, there's a new television. LCD screens suddenly got "smart" and connected to the Internet without any help from peripheral boxes. Then they displayed three dimensions, but reduced 3D TV from the main event to just another feature. Then LCD screens were supposed to give way to screens using organic light emitting diodes (OLED). Now LCD screens are getting super high-definition with 4,000 horizontal pixels and four times the resolution of 1080p screens (All Things D has a great idiot's guide to these technological advancements here).

So while U.S. buyers may take the bait, the rest of the world seems willing to wait. NPD DisplaySearch projects that global TV sales to go flat in 2013. The world may be in a big hurry to ditch its squared-tube televisions, but it's less inclined to pay for more pixels.

More on Money Now

Jan 15, 2013 7:31AM
Like I said, we haven't had our TV on in two years and don't miss it one bit.
We even kept paying $70 a month for MetroCast for the first year just in case we decided that we wanted to turn it on again but ended up canceling the whole thing.
At first my wife would bring home a movie every now and then and ask me if I wanted to watch it.
We would sit down and after about ten minutes, she would pick her book back up and I would go putter around on a project. Before I knew it the TV was back off again.
After you get away from the FAKE world for a while you realize how stupid everything is.
It's like smoking. When you quit, you ask yourself why in the hell did you ever start in the first place?
Throw your Hypno Box away people, and get out there and enjoy the real world.
All you are doing is paying some good looking gal or guy millions to fake you out.

Jan 15, 2013 8:07AM
The problem with American's is that you are OVER ENTERTAINED. 24/7/365 days a week, nothing but entertained.
Because of that, you have become fat, sick, lazy and dumb down.
Just the way they want you.

Jan 14, 2013 7:32PM
Changed features attract the "image" people.  I don't want another television.  When this one goes out, I'm not even sure I'd buy another one for myself.  My wife might though.  I do like the newer widescreens because they can be hung up and out of the way.  But, for me, I can do without one.  Most of what is on televison is re-runs anyway. Constant re-runs.  "Ask your doctor....ask your doctor....ask your doctor....ask your doctor.....ask your doctor....if this junk is right for you."  If you have ever been pregnant, or if you might ever get pregnant, or if you have a child, boy or girl, by marriage or adoption, or if anyone you know has a child....or if you are breathing, this junk may kill you" but "ask your doctor if you can have it..."  If you can't afford it, we'll buy your first month's pills to get you hooked......
Jan 14, 2013 6:27PM
Let's face it, TV's are much lighter, relatively cheap in terms of size and features, and they take up a lot less space than the old ones did. We used to buy furniture for the set, or build it like a piece of furniture. Now we have the advantage of gaining space by hanging it on a wall like a picture. Technological advances if priced right will always win over the consumer.
Jan 14, 2013 9:14PM

Believe me -- this may sound odd but I still have not purchased a single flat screen TV.  I am humbly enjoying my old Sony TV and yes, it's just as clear.  I have upgraded my bedroom, my living room but the black elephant is still there. For as long as I can view the images and hear the sounds, no flatness of any TV will get me to throw out over $500 bucks away.  If i want to use the computer, I move and sit behind the desk!  Thanks to hubby; he is not complaining! 

Jan 15, 2013 12:23PM
If only the quality of programming followed the quality of the television it's on; seems quite the opposite has happened. We now interrupt this commercial for a word from our show...  
Jan 14, 2013 6:42PM

I bought a new one because my 9 year old 27 inch set went out...

Best price I found was a 42 inch for $449.00 We enjoy the bigger new set..

Jan 14, 2013 7:38PM
The new flat screens also use less energy than the old CRTs--a substantial amount less if you have the set on 10-12 hours or more (not necessarily watching).
Jan 14, 2013 7:45PM
For years, TV prices did not go lower very quickly, at least not at the rate PCs did.  That is changing now.  You can expect to pay around, or less than, $10/diagonal inch now for sets under 40 inches.  The bigger screens are still pretty pricey, and the content on TV has less and less value.  Unless the content goes up, crunch time is coming--especially when the USA gets higher bandwidth Internet to match what countries outside the USA get. (check South Korea's!).
Jan 14, 2013 7:34PM
People need to sell the televioions they have, or just throw them away, and get out and work more.  The government needs the money!
Jan 15, 2013 9:52AM
Maybe "Planet of the idiots" should get a TV...and a life.  You really must be bored silly to keep ranting on the ill effects of TV.
Jan 15, 2013 4:59PM
I think that the people whom still have CRT's out there will soon realize what they are missing when they finally get a new flat screen television and see all the features they have and what they can do with their computers.  The newer smart televisions have more features now and they will like those televisions also. The 3 D's televisions I am still holding off on but, they are improving them so you don't have to have the g;asses to wear.
Jan 14, 2013 11:02PM
What else can you buy on sale at $200-350 and be entertained (maybe) 24 hours a day..??
Jan 14, 2013 8:13PM
Just wait till the laser TVs come out and the current TVs become like the CRTs,...........
Jan 18, 2013 1:12PM
To all those that say TV programing hasn't change then your watching the wrong stuff. I have a grandson thats 5 and we love to watch National Geo/Raging Planet /under the ocean. But he still get he's sponge Bob too. There are times when the TV is off and we are out side playing. We have 3 TV in the house and would get one more for the guest room.
Jan 15, 2013 6:26PM
It's the HD and internet accessibility. It is the reason people watch sports on tv rather then go to the arenas. You can be there without the high price of a ticket or crazy crowds. It's the home movie studio without the kids and cell phones.
Jan 15, 2013 5:00AM
Johnson has failed he needs to go home and stay, he can play with his ipad..........
Jan 14, 2013 7:50PM
Twelve years ago, I gave my old 1988 Magnavox CRT set--curved screen, rounded corners--to a friend when I sold my house.  She still has it and won't buy a new one, or would even take my 2005 Sony 27" set when I recently bought a 37" flat screen.  Maybe she'll take my 37" set when I upgrade in 5 years or so, who knows?!?
Jan 14, 2013 7:49PM
I just bought a telescope and now hang out at South Beach, no cable bill or satellite worries or concerns that if it rains that I get a fuzzy screen.
Jan 14, 2013 8:58PM
Ha! Freakin Sheep! I haven't had my TV on in almost two years and don't miss it one bit.
I do listen to the radio on the way to work but the second a talking head comes on I lean forward and push the next button. If theres a talking head on that channel I push the next button.
I have 6 buttons to push and then a 7th (off) if I don't hear music.

Yall wanna watch a stupid hypnobox go right ahead. Your brains wouldn't know anything real if is bit you in the A** anyway.

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