Five Years Too Late

January 7, 2010

Why would you buy a new TV?

Filed under: Uncategorized — fiveyearstoolate @ 4:39 pm

Eric Wiesen

I’m not at CES (and kind of happy about it) but all the social media coming out of Las Vegas this week has me thinking about TVs.

Televisions are a big business, and the companies that make them think constantly about how to convince you that whatever you have isn’t good enough, and that you have to upgrade. Historically, they’ve come up with a handfully of pretty good reasons why you’d really just have to update:

  1. Your TV is B&W but all the new ones are color
  2. Your TV is old and doesn’t have coax so it doesn’t “support” cable.
  3. Your TV has a convex screen but the new ones are kind of flatter.
  4. Your TV is big and has a tube, but now flat screens can hang on the wall.

Truthfully, only #1 and #4 are truly generational transformations that require virtually everyone to upgrade, but there have been plenty of incremental improvements that encourage the marginal user to buy a new set. So what are we likely to see the manufacturers come up with to entice us to toss what’s likely a functional unit for something new?

  1. 3D: If you haven’t seen Avatar, go see it (even if you think the plot looks cheesy, which isn’t the point anyway). See it in 3D. Then realize that 3D is interesting and potentially very engaging. And your TV can’t do it. 18-24 months from now there will be a good number of TVs that can. Will you want one?
  2. Wireless: I’ve set up a lot of home theater systems over the years, and wires can get to be a huge pain in the ass. Look for more and more of these wires to be removed from the equation over time. Will that be enough?
  3. Watching web content on your TV: This will be an interesting one, because you’ll have the TV guys putting web content access into the set and lots of others (set top boxes, third party services, etc…) trying to pipe that same content into your non-enabled set. But last year at CES it seemed like every TV had widgets built-in.
  4. LED backlighting: better, greener.

The TV industry has a lot of things to think about. We’re late in the transition to flat screens (at least in the US and other tech-forward countries) so they need to figure out how to kick-start the next upgrade cycle. They also need to think creatively about the threats coming in from the web and mobile, but frankly if the latest Nielsen numbers are accurate, this is far less of a problem that all we techno-weenie Hulu-watchers would suspect.

As for me – I don’t actually own a TV. We hung a projector on our ceiling and that’s all we have. When my brother-in-law came to stay at our place while we were away, he actually called us to tell us someone had stolen our TV. We kind of like it that way.



  1. Eric, as social media becomes more pervasive and access to information becomes more universal, I wonder if TV manufactures can successfully position their screens as “platforms” to drive innovation. Outside of simplifying set up the ability to banish the increasingly ubiquitous laptop or smart phone from the family room would be a major achievement and one that seems well within reach. While game consoles already have a head start in becoming the media hub of the den, I think that the battle is far from over. In my mind 3-D will be the wedge issue the will ultimately resolve which component and providers become commoditized as for many it represents the third revolution in moving picture (the first two being sound and color)). While I remain skeptical of 3-D I think that there is no question that further convergence is coming the billion dollar question for the tv manufactures is whether they will be able to seize the opportunity it presents or whether the set top box manufactures (and providers like comcast et al) or gaming platforms will king of home entertainment.

    Comment by Joe Ghory — January 7, 2010 @ 5:57 pm

  2. I think #3 is going to be a massive driver over the next 3 years. Maybe we will see wifi enabled TVs this year – maybe they are here already – but this will be a big driver

    Comment by Andy Weissman — January 8, 2010 @ 4:00 pm

    • Well, it’s interesting. For myself and most of the people I know I think I’d agree. The notion of being able to replicate my 3-foot experience in my 10-foot environment is probably important, as is being able to access content types and notifications that currently aren’t available. And based on last year’s CES and what I’m reading about this one, I think the industry agrees with you. But I do wonder a bit if “mainstream” consumers care as much about this as we do. Do my mother-in-law, the partners at my old law firm or my high school friends who aren’t in technology (just to name a few “mainstream examples) care about seeing tweets or Yahoo! content or whatever on their TVs? Maybe. I’m not convinced though. I’m actually not convinced that any of these things will motivate a lot of current LCD/Plasma owners to upgrade their sets.

      Comment by Eric Wiesen — January 8, 2010 @ 5:07 pm

      • I think the integration of netflix and AMZN video on demand – which has happened- -into DVD players and TVs changes this equation considerably

        Comment by Andy Weissman — January 11, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

      • Andy – I agree with that. I guess it requires a distinction between “native” web content and other streaming. I look at Netflix and Amazon on-demand as being extensions of traditionally tv-based content. I certainly think they are compelling extensions, if not necessarily native web stuff.

        Comment by fiveyearstoolate — January 11, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

  3. No TV? Perhaps we aren’t paying you enough….

    Comment by jdrive — January 12, 2010 @ 11:44 pm

  4. There is 3D and there is what’s often called 2.5D. 3D is something that people see differently depending on their position. 2.5D is sort of a ‘hack’ that uses the fact we have two eyes to trick us into seeing 3D-like images. But we can’t look around them.

    Of course in a movie it doesn’t make sense to look around things since the story-line is the movement and you should ‘sit still’ and enjoy. However, a true 3D display (especially if two-way) would be utterly transformational since the sense of presence would be overwhelming.

    3D TV is not a holodeck, it’s not even that weird display that appears in Minority Report.

    Comment by Nic Fulton — January 14, 2010 @ 2:16 am

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