Flat-panel TV prices move higher: Ready for the upsell?

The price wars among TV manufacturers appear to be over, and consumers want Internet-connected TVs.

In what could be construed as a shocking development in consumer electronics, flat-screen TV prices are creeping higher, according to data from research firm IHS.

IHS' iSuppli unit, which tracks the electronics supply chain, reports that flat-panel TV prices have climbed 11.4 percent since December 2011. In April, the average price for LCD and plasma TVs was $1,248, $78 higher than four months ago.

That jump may not sound like a lot, but it's the highest four-month spike over the last year. What's causing the price creep?

For starters, consumers are buying TVs with Internet connectivity and light-emitting diode (LED) technology. Meanwhile, TV manufacturers are charging a premium for so-called smart-TV features. In December, the average flat-panel TV cost you $1,119, which was up from a low of $1,087 in March 2011.

Overall, the primary reasons for the price increases have little to do with technology. First, TV manufacturers aren't killing each other for sales. The price war among manufacturers appears to be over, IHS said. TV manufacturers apparently are holding prices for the better of the industry. That reality stinks for consumers, but it may help TV manufacturers such as LG, Sony, Samsung, and Sharp.

In addition, retailers have become a bit smarter about TV sales. Retailers are diligently working to upsell consumers on larger TVs with more features. Even the much-maligned 3D LCD TV lineup is seeing price increases. Average prices for 3D TVs rose 3 percent in April from March, to $2,492.

There is a bright side. TVs that have lower refresh rates and lacked Internet connectivity fell. According to IHS, prices slipped 6 percent in April for premium-brand 40- and 42-inch TV sets that used the older LCD technology, had lower 60-hertz refresh rates, and lacked Internet capabilities.

The bottom line: if you want a relative bargain, a dumb TV paired with an Apple TV or Roku box may be your ticket.

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About the author

    Larry Dignan is editor in chief of ZDNet and editorial director of CNET's TechRepublic. He has covered the technology and financial-services industries since 1995.

     

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