McAdams On: A New Year, a New $150,000 TV Set

WHAT? — You tell me: What does a $150,000 TV set do that a $1,500 TV set doesn’t do? I don’t know. Maybe it relates to you; reads your mind, becomes the disembodied voice of Scarlett Johansson. Surely it microwaves your cells into tiny crisps. Samsung’s 110-inch LCD 4KTV was rolled out in South Korea this week with a price tag of 150 grand U.S. My first question is, “why?” And my second is, “when will it be listed on Amazon so the hilarious reviews (opens in new tab) can begin?”

As far as features are concerned, it appears to do what just about any other TV does, according to the 246 or so news sources that probably picked up the story from one another. The $150,000 Samsung S9110 displays TV shows. I don’t think the two young Korean ladies that always accompany a Samsung or LG TV debut come with the S9110 or even hand-deliver it, much less hold it up in your living room wearing evening gowns. That would at least explain the price.

Who will buy a $150,000 television set? People who hate their retinas and who love the men in their life and are Oprah Winfrey or the fictional character Tony Stark. But seriously, can you imagine Oprah watching herself on a 110-inch 4KTV? Celebrities will be replaced by avatars once they can no longer disguise that they actually look like the rest of us.

I’m just wondering how much it’s costing to FedEx that thing from Seoul to Las Vegas for CES next week. Amazon Free Shipping? I don’t think so. I hope it’s delivered to CES on a flying shag rug the size of a basketball court. That would spice up the Biggest Trade Shew in the Woild. How long, after all, can people stay agog at bigger and bigger TV sets with pictures so sharp, the detail is undetectable by the human eye? How long can people stay agog in general? I’m guessing a half-life of around three seconds. Enough to create a new Snapchat channel. (People being agog. I thought of that.)

I guarantee the press corps covering CES will file reports rife with agogativity because their buy-in is hugely important to TV manufacturers trying to recover from the digital and HDTV mass acquisition precipice. (When everyone in the United States went out the same year or so and bought a new TV set. And then they didn’t do it again, despite the overwhelming benefits offered by 3DTV.) And to get ahead of when Chinese manufacturers like TCL, which is offering a 50-inch 4KTV (opens in new tab) on Amazon for less than a grand, flood the U.S. market.

So for now, the only way left to sell TVs is to go bigger and more pixelier because you don’t need a new TV to hook your big screen up to the Internet. I predict the press corps agogification of bigger and sharper TVs will run its course at this CES. I predict a good deal of attention on what Chinese manufacturers bring to the table.

Sour apples, you say? Snarking because I don’t have $150,000 to spend on a TV set? Perhaps. Or perhaps I’d spend $150,000 large on an Aston Martin to win the love of someone who doesn’t deserve me and then get rid of it after I reject him. Or something equally constructive. Like putting the money in savings and buying the set with the accumulated interest a year from now when it costs $15,000. That, and a down payment on a house with a room big enough to put it in, with bouncers to manage the line of guys out the front door.

That much of a price drop may be optimistic, I admit. The 85-inch Samsung 4KTV (opens in new tab) introduced a year ago can be had (used) at a 22 percent discount off list (which Amazon says was $44,999.99, but was $39,999.99 all along on Samsung’s website. Because a penny is a closer on five-digit purchases.) The comparable LG 84LM9600 (opens in new tab) 84-Inch Cinema 3D 4K Ultra HD 240Hz LED-LCD HDTV with Smart TV and Six Pairs of 3D Glasses … (big inhale)… is marked down just 15 percent, to $16,999, probably because of the six pairs of glasses. And Sony’s XBR-84X900 (opens in new tab) 84-inch 4K Ultra Batcave Vision TV? It’s 25 grand like it was when Sony rolled it out last August. Boo-yah Sony. (Batcave Vision. I thought of that.)

Elsewhere, Samsung’s 65-inch 4KTV (opens in new tab) is listed at an alleged 47 percent discount at a measly $4,497.99. It’s like a sad cousin who lost their way after a brief bout of YouTube fame. I feel bad for it. Or is it badly?

Nada whole lot surprisingly, ordinary old HD 3DTV sets were the most deeply discounted—between around 25 to 30 percent in my pre-holiday Amazon push email. They’re now being packaged as add-ons to 4KTVs.

And finally, there are the OLED TVs. Ahh OLED. We hardly know ye. What are you again? Oh, right. Those paper-thin TVs with light-deprivation room blacks.

OLED TVs were introduced to the market Dec. 1, 2007 with the unveiling of Sony’s $2,500 11-inch XEL-1, a flat-screen resembling a computer monitor. The XEL-1 proved that anyone spending $2,500 for a TV at the time was not going to get an 11-inch computer monitor. Consumer reaction did not occur.

OLEDs are notoriously difficult to fabricate, which may be why Sony and Panasonic backed out of a joint production initiative. However, they are somewhat agog-worthy with their two-dimensional profiles and colors that stand out in a room and holler at you. LG and Samsung are staying in the OLED game with new curved screens that are kind of cool because they’re among the first concave TVs, but otherwise—TVs.

How much the new 4K OLEDs will debut for remains to be seen by me, but the $8,999 Samsung 55-inch curved OLED HDTV, introduced in August, has been slashed at Amazon (opens in new tab) to $8,997.99. (That is correct. $1.01.) LG’s 55-inch model, rolled out in July for $14,999, dropped a bit more to $10,999 on Amazon (opens in new tab), and is now listed for $8,499.00.

At 8.5 grand a set, one could forego a single $150,000 monster Samsung and buy 16 of LG’s curved OLEDs and make de facto Surround TV—something simultaneously cool and horrifying and probably in the works. Let the gamers begin. And please call me if you buy the $150,000 Samsung 4K set. Really. I want to have a look at you.