Super Bowl Season Is a Prime Time for TV Buyers
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Whichever team you're rooting for (or even if you're just watching for the ads), the Super Bowl has become a great excuse to go shopping for a new TV.
Prices really do drop ahead of the Big Game. Big screens run 5 to 10 percent cheaper during the week leading up to the Super Bowl than they are in the three months before and after, said Ben Arnold, executive director and industry analyst for The NPD Group.
"The overall price of TVs typically doesn't drop," he said. "A lot of the market is 32 inch and below, and that's not really a Super Bowl experience."
Part of the discounting is a play to keep inventory moving. TV prices have continued declining at a rate of 8 to 10 percent each year as the technologies get cheaper and new low-priced players move into the market, said Arnold. And this is the time of year when many drops occur, weeks after manufacturers announce their latest and greatest at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
There is some maneuvering to attract sports fans, too. Consumer Electronics Association surveys have found that almost a quarter of TV buyers get a new set specifically for the Super Bowl, said spokesman Jim Barry. The Winter Olympics, which start in less than two weeks, also spur sales. "That might be a driver for some folks," he said.
Experts say fans in the market for a new set tend to fall into two camps: those who want a big deal on a big screen and those who are thinking of the purchase as an investment for the next five years or so of viewing.
Those in the big-screens, big-deals camp are likely to find plenty of sales to compare. The most competitive prices used to be on 42-inch sets; these days, many of the big discounts are on those measuring 50 inches and bigger. "We're also seeing beHtter prices on higher quality models than you'd see on Black Friday," said Brent Shelton, a spokesman for deal site FatWallet.com. Amazon has 40 percent off a 55-inch Samsung LED with 3-D and Web connectivity; Best Buy has 25 percent off a 60-inch Sharp LED.
Shoppers on the hunt for more of an investment set will still find price breaks. Even some cutting-edge ultrahigh-definition set (also called 4K technology) are on sale. At Best Buy, a 55-inch LG LED 4K set with 3-D and Web connectivity is 14 percent off, at $3,000.
But buying may be a bit premature for most shoppers. There's not much 4K content yet to justify the premium. "The prices on those, you're probably not going to see many less than $3,000, although this is an industry that eats its young," Barry said. "You're going to see those prices start to come down."
A more solid bet: Consider trading up to a "smart" TV that connects to the Internet and, in some cases, your smartphone or tablet. "We're starting to see that's a more sought-after feature," said Arnold. Sets often run $100 or so higher than comparable models without that capability.
The smart TV advantage: Users can access content from the Web and their devices right on the set, as well as sync devices to pull up content related to what's on screen (such as football stats). Some apps also let smart-set owners stream video to their tablet (for crucial snack runs to the kitchen) or set up a virtual gathering (with fans who live elsewhere), said Barry.
If you're in the market for a tablet, some retailers are bundling them with smart TVs. Through Feb. 8, for example, Amazon is offering a free Galaxy Tab 3 (regularly $300) with the purchase of one of nine select Samsung smart TV models. The sets, which start at sale prices of $1,098, are already discounted 35 percent or better.
Sports fans may also want to hunt for a high refresh rate, which better captures on-screen motion, said Arnold. "It provides a little more realistic experience," he said.