TV Set Sales: No Big Boost From DTV Transition

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TV manufacturers shouldn’t be hoping to get an assist from procrastinators (or the clueless).

The Feb. 17, 2009, digital TV transition has already compelled most consumers who were going to upgrade their TV sets to do so, according to Paul Gagnon, DisplaySearch’s director of North America TV market research.

DisplaySearch’s 2009 forecast factors in no more than a 2% lift in sales because of the DTV transition, when full-power TV stations must cease analog broadcasts.

"The digital TV transition in the U.S. has helped fuel the growth we’ve seen in the last few years," Gagnon said.

But the millions of people who aren’t ready at this point — a number that is still north of 7 million households, according to Nielsen — probably will not run out and buy HDTV sets come February, he predicted. 

"These tend to be lower-income households which have the least buying power," Gagnon said, adding that late-acting consumers would be far more likely to buy digital-to-analog converters than brand-new TVs.

On the other hand, he said, while it’s not his current expectation there’s the chance that "we could see a flurry of panic buying" next February.

Whatever the incremental benefit, it won’t be enough to turn the tide on what’s shaping up to be a very disappointing year for the TV manufacturers.

DisplaySearch earlier this month cut its 2009 forecast for worldwide TV set sales, which Gagnon expects to decline 18% to $88 billion in revenue. Shipments for the year are projected to be 205.3 million units, down 1%—the first time “in recent memory” that there has been a drop in unit shipments, according to DisplaySearch.