Shoppers' decision to go big this year reflects a cultural change in how we're watching television programs and movies. Increasingly, shoppers are primarily looking to buy a TV for communal viewing experiences like family movie night or a live event such as the Academy Awards. But solitary TV viewing is often happening on PCs and tablets now, meaning that the need for a small TV in the bedroom or the playroom might be fading.
When it comes to big TVs, "we're pretty bullish going forward because we think that people, when they look for a new television, will be willing to spend on that experience," said Stephen Baker, NPD Group's primary hardware analyst. "Because they know when they turn to the big TV, it's not because they're going to watch a YouTube video, it's because they’re going to watch the Super Bowl."
But there's more to the surge in sales of big-screen TVs: Retailers have largely given up on trying to get consumers to spring for 3D TVs as they've realized it was a tough sell when so little content these days is filmed for 3D-viewing. Plus, Baker said, consumers weren't getting on board with the idea of having to wear special 3D glasses to watch TV.
This year, electronics retailers pivoted to showcasing TVs with Ultra HD 4K technology. The promise of a clearer picture seems to be more successful at enticing consumers.
"We're just seeing people kind of reverting back to what they've always wanted in a television: The biggest TVs they can get with the best picture they can get, at their price point," Baker said.
Retailers this year offered major deals during Black Friday sales on these kinds of sets: Wal-Mart, for example, promoted a Samsung 55-inch 4K Ultra HD Curved TV for $1,298, a $900 savings from its original price. Best Buy, meanwhile, offered Samsung 55” LED Ultra HD Smart TV for $899.99, the lowest price it has ever offered on a Samsung Ultra HD TV of that size. These promotions may have helped encourage shoppers to buy bigger TVs, though Baker said the trend toward purchasing bigger screens has been seen throughout 2014, even when these doorbuster deals were not in place.
While the market for 50 to 64-inch TVs appears strong to Baker, he said he sees less growth potential for the mega-size sets that are 65 or inches or more. The reason, Baker believes, has little to do with how fat our wallets are or how good the promotions are on these items.
"You're getting to a point where there's not a lot of homes that can get a product that big in the house," Baker said.