By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –Follow on Facebook & X.
Former Sony employee.

TV Answer Man, I am interested in getting a Black Friday discount on a TV this week but how can you tell if you’re really getting a discount or is it just marketing fluff? — Jerry, Orlando, Florida.

A TV Deal Is Not Always a Deal

Jerry, that is a great question. During Black Friday, retailers advertise that they are offering lower prices on everything from televisions to tissues. But as someone who has worked at an electronics company, and as a journalist covering the electronics industry for three decades, I’ve learned that the ‘deals’ are sometimes not really deals at all.

For instance, let’s say Sony introduces a 65-inch 4K TV with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $999. The key word in that phrase is ‘suggested.’ A retailer will immediately cut the price by at least $50 so it can gain an edge on the competition. You’ll see signs in the store, or at the retailer’s web site, saying the TV is $50 off MSRP.

However, the store’s rivals will likely reduce the price by $50 as well, or in the case of some, like Amazon, $51. (The extra dollar is so Amazon can say it offers the lowest price.) So is it really a ‘deal’ that you can buy it for $50 less than the MSRP? Not really.

Why Do Store Lower the Price of TVs?

As the TV model gets older and starts taking up shelf space needed for new sets, the initial retailer might lower it by $100 instead of $50. Now it will say the price is 10 percent off the MSRP, which sounds good but only means the store is selling a less-valued TV for a correctly reduced price. So is that a deal? Again, not really, particularly if you can buy it for the same price at almost any electronics store.

Now let’s jump to Black Friday. Retailers might say a TV’s price has been reduced by 33 percent. But in most cases, we’re still talking about the MSRP. (The TV maker sometimes reduces the MSRP during the set’s life, but not dramatically.) The store has simply cut the price from what the company ‘suggests’ it should sell it for, although few actually sell it for that. So you are actually buying a TV for considerably less than what it was when it was first introduced.

But would you expect anything different if you were buying an older model car? Of course not. The price is lower, but it’s not really a deal. So what are real deals? I would put them in two categories.

How to Tell a Deal Is For Real

One, when a retailer or two significantly lower a product’s price compared to what their rivals are charging. For instance, if Amazon and Walmart are charging $699 for a 60-inch TV and Best Buy steps in and drops it to $599, that’s a deal.

Two, if the manufacturer significantly drops the suggested retail price, allowing all retailers to drop their prices as well, that’s a deal. For example, a few weeks ago, Roku is now selling a Roku Ultra streaming device, normally $99, for $69 as part of its Black Friday sale.

If a Black Friday ‘deal’ does not fall in one of these two categories, I would not call it a deal. It might be interesting, and worth your time and money because the price is dramatically lower than it was several months ago. But not a deal.

Jerry, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!

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The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than three decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television. See the bio for Phillip Swann here.