5 min read
10 May 2021

If you're old enough, you might remember all the hype around HDTVs, when they first came out, in the late 1990s, and how expensive they were. In fact, the cheapest model you could get at first, would set you back $8,000. But nowadays, you can get an HDTV that's over 40 inches, for under 250 bucks. And not only that, but they take up far less space, and have connectivity features unheard of, back in the late nineties. So how the heck have TV has gotten so darn cheap anyway.

One part of it is that, as electronics have become more and more common in everyday life, the average consumer has gotten wise, to the early adopter tax. Where new technologies, are nearly always more expensive, shortly after they've just come out.

This means consumers often strategically wait, for prices to come down, to buy new electronics. Which actually lowers demand, for the stuff, and forces prices down, in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course, manufacturers couldn't actually lower prices If the screens, were still super expensive to make. But fortunately, this isn't the case anymore, as it is with many things, manufacturers optimize their processes as time goes on. And in the case of LCD screens, they're now printed, on much larger machines, than they were back in the 1990s. This means, just one piece of equipment, can make the panels, for a large number of devices, making them much cheaper to produce in bulk.Why TVs Are SO CHEAP

For example, the new gen 10 plus manufacturing process, uses a sheet of glass, that's just under 10 square meters. And the dimensions are such that, exactly eight 65-inch TVs, can be produced from it, with no wasted material.

Combined with tighter quality control that's been helped along by advances in the materials, even large panels, can be made relatively cheaply, from these giant pieces of mother glass.

Speaking of the panels themselves, you may have noticed that, when you go into your local big box electronic store, many of the TVs you see, don't really look that different from one another. Why TVs Are SO CHEAPObviously, you can pay a premium for technologies like, OLED, quantum dot, or mini-LED, but it's getting to the point where it's difficult for TVs to differentiate themselves, from one another, based on picture quality.

The initial leap from standard Def, to high Def, was a huge deal. And the difference in picture quality was clear as night and day to the average consumer. But these days, much of the underlying tech is very similar between models. Why TVs Are SO CHEAPDo you have an LCD panel, with an LED backlight, operating at a resolution of 10 ADP, or 4K, depending on the content? And for the average user, this is more, or less, good enough, in the sense that, advancements and picture quality over the years haven't resulted, in some huge sea change that, has everyone rushing to get some hot new style of TV.

I mean, it's still extremely difficult to receive cable or satellite broadcast in 4k. Partly because there isn't a huge amount of demand for it. And HDR, has not spurred huge demand for more expensive TVs, either.

All of this means that, instead of trying to compete primarily on picture quality, manufacturers are now competing on price. But, there's still a huge piece of the puzzle missing.

Have you wondered why nearly everything new TV these days, even a cheap one, is a smart TV. This isn't just because TV manufacturers want to give you extra features, or the goodness of their little hearts, no. Many of the various streaming services available on smart TVs, share revenue that they get from advertising, with the manufacturers. And on top of that, the manufacturers often collect data themselves, then they sell that on, to both marketers, and to streaming services, so that they can get a better picture of people's viewing at it.

This creates a situation where, manufacturers, can make more money, off of the way people use their TVs, than they do off the TVs themselves. Especially when you consider how cutthroat, the pricing Wars are, resulting in TV hardware being a low margin business. And it makes sense when you think about it. Why TVs Are SO CHEAPMany people simply accept default settings, when they set up their TVs, that allow for lots of data collection. And even if you go in and turn it off, it's hard to completely turn it off. 

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Den W. 3K
I'm a passionate tech enthusiast who loves diving into the world of software, programming, and tech reviews.
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