By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, December 28, 2011 at 9:59 am
Back in the 1990s, I really, really wanted a Sony Trinitron TV. Couldn’t afford one. So I bought a cheap Sharp TV, and felt deprived.
These days, as the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson explains, all HDTVs are remarkably inexpensive, and getting more so every week. And it’s increasingly hard for any particular brand to stick out from the pack:
This makes televisions different from, say, a tablet. You can compare the iPad and the BlackBerry Playbook across many factors: screen quality, screen size, speed, connection, touch responsiveness, and app store. The iPad is really, really different from the BlackBerry PlayBook. A Sony 40-inch flatscreen TV is really, really similar to a Panasonic. This makes it difficult to build what analysts call “brand premium.” You might pay extra for an Apple product because you have a clear sense of what Apple offers above and beyond other similarly-priced products. Televisions don’t have the same differentiation. As a result, TV prices tend to converge more than other electronics. Given the behavior of consumers, and the efficiency gains of manufacturers, the direction of that convergence is down.
This is an enormous headache for TV makers–and a nightmare, really, for a company like Sony, which is used to being able to command a stiff price premium. Overall, though, it’s great news for TV buyers.