Busts follow booms and the business cycle rolls on, but 2010 is shaping up to be the year it turns up for big-screen TV manufacturers and their suppliers. It probably won't get so heady again that you'll be able to buy a set at Home Depot
Turn on, tune in
According to the market researchers at iSuppli, there's a new wave of big-screen TV buying that's bound to drum up business for manufacturers. Global revenues from shipments of large-sized LCD panels are expected to rise by a whopping 40% in 2010.
However, not everyone is so certain the opportunity is crystal clear. LCD glazier Corning
Set plasma rays to stunned
The price point dynamic has changed as well. In the previous cycle, LCD sets above 37 inches tended to be prohibitively expensive, which made the plasma TV the choice for those large, living room-mounted sets. Not anymore. LCDs are now competitively priced at most screen sizes, which means consumers have even more choices.
Quality's a little fuzzy
But there's a dirty secret lurking in your big-screen TV that could serve as a reality check on this all-growth, all-the-time scenario. We'll charitably call it "planned obsolescence," only the obsolescence is coming a lot sooner than consumers were planning.
We were used to having our regular, tube TVs last 10 or 20 years before we had to start slapping the side of the box to adjust the picture. Not so with plasma and LCD TVs. In just a few years time, many sets are suffering from audio and video problems that highly dilute the viewing experience. In the rush to meet the demand of the consumer, the manufacturers seemingly tossed quality control aside.
The "black screen of death"
It's anecdotal, to be sure, but consumer affairs discussion boards are littered with complaints from thousands of people who've purchased TVs from Best Buy
With repairs running into the hundreds of dollars, replacement becomes the most cost-effective solution for a set that's only a few years old. Maybe that's how manufacturers were planning on juicing sales, although they run the risk of ruining their reputations -- and inviting class action lawsuits.
Measure twice, cut once
We've become enamored of our technology and rush to embrace it. Manufacturers are all too willing to feed that demand, and with the new breed of sets coming to market, we'll be dealing with new technologies, too, like LED backlighting and 3-D. That's just more gizmos that can break down on us.
Before you join the stampede, you might want to take a little more time to research the quality of the sets that manufacturers churned out last time. Investors might want to sharpen their focus before deciding if the stock of the TV maker they're viewing is as cheap as it looks.