Viewers delay plans to buy new TV sets

New research says that consumers are putting the brakes on purchases of new TV sets. Perhaps in response to lost jobs, foreclosures and other financial factors, American viewers’ plans to buy new TV sets have plunged to record low levels.

The research from IHS (formerly iSuppli) was completed during the second quarter of 2011. The results showed that only 13 percent of consumers who had not purchased a TV set in the previous three months had plans to do so sometime in the next three to 12 months. This is down sharply from the 32 percent who expressed plans to buy new sets in the first quarter as measured on the previous survey.

Significantly, more than 80 percent of survey respondents said they had no plans to buy a new TV set within the next 12 months. This compares to the 66 percent who said the same in the first quarter of this year. IHS said this is the highest negative level of response to the question since the research firm began asking this question in 2010.

Purchases delayed

Riddhi Patel, IHS director for television systems and retail services said, “The findings suggest a growing willingness among U.S. consumers to suspend – if not totally abandon – their ongoing love affair with television, the primary entertainment device for many American households. A sort of wait-and-see attitude has taken hold – whether it is waiting for the economy to improve, or for television prices to fall some more, or for the arrival of better deals that combine both reduced prices and high-end TV features.”

Set makers must be concerned about another trend identified in the study. Brand name has become a less important factor because of the lower price differential between brands. The most important purchasing criteria is now picture quality, price and screen size — not brand name.

Simpler, cheaper models desired

Much of the survey’s results go against what many television set manufacturers and Internet app makers like Google are pushing. Consumers are simply not keen to pay more for “advanced TV features”, like Internet connectivity and LED backlighting.

LCD display remains the most popular display, with 86 percent of sets purchased using the technology. Sales of plasma displays grew, and IHS says that’s in spite of higher set prices.

A slight increase was detected in buyers focusing on 50 inch and larger sets. Even so, survey results show up to 38 percent of buyers still look for smaller, under 30 inch, TV sets primarily because of their lower price.

Patel summarized the survey results saying, “The latest survey indicates a tremendous shift in preferences among an increasingly cautious buying pubic, unnerved by the continuing gloom of the economy”.

What was not measured by this study was whether alternative displays like mobile TV, tablets, smart phones and computer displays are siphoning off viewers to new screens and venues. That could help account for the reduced purchase plans for large and expensive TV sets.