Do you remember in the early 2000s when a flatscreen TV cost as much as your rent?
Long gone are the days of $3,000 TVs!
Now, this common household appliance is cheaper than ever, even as 4K smart TVs become the norm.
So, why are our TVs becoming clearer and faster, but cheaper?
Let’s examine why TVs are beginning to cost less than a new iPhone, and what that means to you as a consumer.
1. Brands Are Competing for the Lowest Price
It’s no secret that TV companies are in fierce competition with one another. Unlike phones or other small technologies, people only buy a TV once every decade or so. This means that brands only have one shot every 10 years to get their customers’ business.
When shopping for TVs, people look at the screen resolution, input lag, and of course, the price.
With many TVs boasting the same functions, the price is often the deciding factor.
One brand may lower their prices and see a drastic increase in sales, only for other brands to set their prices even lower, and so on.
This leads to the extremely low prices we’re seeing today, as brands went from making thousands of dollars per sale to a measly few hundred.
If you have a smart TV, you may have noticed that it includes one or two free apps from different companies, like Peacock.
These apps offer generous sums of money to TV brands for their apps to be built-in the TV.
These apps also compete with each other, offering to pay more money than their competitors.
These apps also make TVs more appealing to the consumer, since they know their favorite streaming apps will be ready to use as soon as they’ve plugged their new TV in.
So, your smart TV brand has already sealed the deal on an incredulous amount of money before you’ve even whipped out your credit card.
How do streaming apps make money if their apps are free to smart TV customers, you ask?
They sell your data to advertisers, which generates millions in revenue. All they need from you is your location, standard personal information, and watch history.
3. TVs Became Easier and Cheaper to Make
Several years ago when flatscreen TVs were just making their way onto the market, companies spent millions of dollars to make and sell the very first thin TVs we know and love today.
Now, decades later, the price to produce this same technology has significantly decreased, even as the screens have gotten clearer, thinner, and more advanced.
Making a TV nowadays costs very little, allowing TV manufacturers to decrease their prices while still maintaining a reasonable profit margin.
Moreover, the factories have been almost completely automated, meaning manufacturers save money by employing fewer people.
This is commonplace for any new technology, just think of how expensive smartphones, airline tickets, and cars used to be.
When a piece of technology goes from a luxury to a necessity it’s often because it’s easier and cheaper to produce, making it cheaper to buy.
The invention of the mother glass has also allowed TVs to become cheaper to make. A mother glass is a large, durable substrate used to make TV and smartphone displays.
Several TV panels can be cut out of the mother glass. Not only does this save the manufacturer money, but it also saves them time since the mother glass allows them to quickly produce several displays at once.
Manufacturers have also found new techniques for cutting mother glass, allowing them to use as much of the substrate as possible. The latest generation of mother glasses are also larger, so more displays can be cut from them.
Also, since brands are already competing for the lowest price on the market, low manufacturing costs allow them to boast the lowest TV prices we’ve ever seen.
4. TV Companies are Selling Your Data
Would you believe it if I told you that you, yes you, are more valuable to TV companies than actual TVs?
TVs brands make a lot of money from selling your data to advertisers. These advertisers and other third parties, in turn, use this information to advertise hyper-specific products to you.
Have you been watching a lot of Stranger Things lately? Well then, perhaps you’d enjoy the trending clothing pieces from the show?
Are you a big Mad Men fan? Check out this sixties-themed eyeshadow palette and lipstick!
There’s also evidence that companies are spying on you through your smart TV’s built-in webcam and microphone, which you probably didn’t even know were there!
This means that your smart TV is listening to your conversations and watching you, using voice-to-text technology to keep a written record of what you say. This data is also used to increase the efficiency and accuracy of voice-to-text software and virtual assistants, improving your user experience.
To consumers, it’s scary stuff. But to TV companies, it means more business than ever.
As personal data sales continue to increase, we can only expect TV prices to decrease even more.
Now we are their biggest product, and the TV is just a vessel.
5. Fewer People are Watching TV
If you didn’t have a TV in your home, would you be unable to watch shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or even live broadcast TV, like sports?
No, of course not. You’d watch it on your laptop or phone like the rest of us.
TV manufacturers are well aware of this and know that, unlike our phones or laptops which allow us to write essays, keep in touch with family and friends, and freely surf the web, TVs are solely for watching content and playing video games.
With the rise of smart TVs, we can expect the TV’s horizons to expand, but for now, they’re very limited in comparison to the other personal devices found in a home.
For this reason, TV brands are lowering their prices as an incentive to prospective buyers.
“It only costs $300 so why not get one,” is along the lines of what they’re hoping will go through customers’ minds.
TVs aren’t necessarily going out of fashion, but they’re no longer the only pipeline to visual entertainment.
6. TV Manufacturers are Aware of the Impending Recession
Let’s face it. This generation is one of the brokest in American history, and we’re about to get even broker.
With households making less money than ever before, most people’s reactions to buying a big ticket item like a TV is, “In this economy?”
TV brands know that consumers, especially millennials, cannot afford to spend more than a few hundred dollars on a TV anymore. So, they’ve had to decrease their prices to ensure they still generate income.
So, as we become poorer, TVs become cheaper.
Yesenia Achlim is a technical copywriter and editor with a focus on AV equipment. She aims to break down complicated topics and make technology accessible, no matter your technical expertise. When she’s not teaching you how to replace a projector lamp, you can find her reading and baking.