Q. I am shopping for a 50-inch new TV and have a budget of $600-900. My wife thinks that OLED prices will come down to that range in the next year. Do you think a significant price drop is likely? — Willie, hometown withheld.
Willie, let me give you the good news before the bad.
LG has slashed the price of its 55-inch (2018 B8 model) OLED TV to $1,500, and its 65-inch model to $2,300, as part of a Super Bowl 2019 promotion. These are the lowest prices that the company has ever officially set on its OLED TVs. (Sony and Panasonic, which also make the thin-paneled sets, are charging even more for their OLEDS.) The 55-inch set has been discounted by $100 while the 65-inch TV has been cut by $200.
If you’re interested in buying an OLED, this is the time to act, which leads me to the bad news.
I don’t expect prices will fall under $1,200, much less $1,000 anytime this year, for two reasons:
1. Production Issues
A high-def LG 55-inch OLED TV cost $14,999 when it was first introduced in 2014. The OLED was priced so high back in 2014 because at the time it was extremely difficult to manufacture it. The panels were so thin (just 0.17 inches thick) that LG could only make so many of them so it had to keep prices high and therefore demand low.
Since then, LG has streamlined the OLED production process, which has allowed it to manufacture more sets. Plus, Sony and Panasonic have jumped in with OLED models, creating more competition and manufacturing dollars. This has allowed the OLED TV makers to lower prices somewhat.
The production problem continues to exist, though, which has contributed to keeping prices high.
The OLED TV arguably offers the best picture on the market. The set combines some of the best features of Plasma and LED sets, displaying deep blacks and high contrast levels. The result is that the OLED TV’s eye-popping picture and sleek style is a real dazzler. I have never met a display expert yet who hasn’t gushed over an OLED TV’s picture, whether it’s a 4K or HD version.
LG, which has been the biggest advocate of OLED, has wisely capitalized on the set’s reputation, creating a market perception that it’s a unique TV and therefore worthy of unique prices. The company, and Sony and Panasonic, are keeping OLED prices where they are because it’s working. Why lower prices if you don’t have to?
Now you might say that they would sell more sets if they lowered prices. True, but then they would likely run into bigger production issues which in turn would lead to possible OLED shortages.
Better to have expensive sets in stores than no sets in stores for any extended period of time. The latter would dampen interest and ultimately perhaps make consumers forget about what is the best TV on the market.
So, Willie, if you want your OLED, you’re going to have to bump that budget up a bit.
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— Phillip Swann