With the recession still slogging on, it's hard for premium TV manufacturers like Samsung and Toshiba to keep market share at significantly higher prices than "bargain" brands like Vizio and Westinghouse. So it should come as no surprise that a new report from market research firm iSuppli finds that the pricing difference between premium and value sets is narrowing.
How much narrower? Samsung's price differential compared to Vizio was 31 percent last year for a 40- to 42-inch 1080p LCD, but only 11 percent now. Toshiba's equivalent set is now 10 percent cheaper than Vizio's. All told, the average price for a premium version of that set was just $955, while the budget version was $798. Buyers still say picture quality is their top consideration when choosing a new set, but the fact that Vizio has supplanted Samsung as the top LCD TV seller in the U.S. suggests the premium vendors may need to do a better job at conveying their superior image quality.
According to the iSuppli report, one company that not surprisingly hasn't budged on its pricing is Sony. Sony's set is 34 percent more than Vizio's equivalent, the same differential as last year. Sony's TV division is hemorrhaging money, so it's not shocking that the company is trying to keep its margins high. Then again, being priced well above the rest of the market doesn't seem to bother Sony, considering it refuses to lower the price on the PlayStation 3 to shore up flagging sales.