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Plasma TVs becoming more affordable

Sales of plasma TVs are up, but revenues decline as the average selling prices drop 35 percent.

Sales of plasma TVs are humming along, but declining prices led to the category's first-ever year-over-year revenue decline. While that's not such good news for manufacturers and retailers, it's fantastic for consumers.

Unit sales of plasmas brought in $181 million to retailers in February 2007, a 16 percent drop from the $216 million in sales the same month last year, according to data collected by The NPD Group.

Although the number of plasma sets sold was up 30 percent over the same period, the average selling price was $1,688, representing a 35 percent decrease.

"We'll likely continue to see average prices continue to drop, but the market still has quite a bit of upside left to it," said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for The NPD Group. Still, plasma manufacturers are facing the challenge of finding ways to add features and charge higher prices.

Just ratcheting up the screen size isn't really a good option since that starts to home in on microdisplay TV manufacturers' territory. Instead, higher resolutions, more HDMI connections and home networking options offer the most promise, according to Rubin.

It was a tough month for all consumer electronics products. TVs were the best-selling product, but the category's $900 million in February revenue was off by 13 percent from the previous February.