TV sales up as DTV conversion approaches

December 26, 2008 6:36:53 PM PST
Rolando Pena and his wife Blanca recently bought their first flat screen television. They are now ready for the nationwide digital television conversion on February 17, 2009.

"That's what I'm going to do right now, I don't want to have no more TV antenna," Pena said.

The Penas are one of tens of thousands of Bay Area families who are rushing to buy new television sets able to receive the digital television signal without that $40 to $60 converter.

Stores like Best Buy are attracting those customers with sale prices.

Rich Ha of San Francisco's Best Buy store on Harrison Street says there is a lot of confusion among customers over the change.

"The main questions are, 'is my TV ready for the conversion in February?' 'Does the TV I have have the tuner I need?' 'What is the difference between some of the different converter boxes we have in the store,'" Ha said.

Ha says the concern has slightly increased sales of flat screen TVs, especially those priced under $1,000.

"What is driving the sales up is fear; there is a lot of fear on the part, especially of older people, that their TV sets are not going to be functional," University of San Francisco professor of business Eugene Muscat said.

Because of the digital conversion coming up in February, places like Best Buy and other TV outlets say their sales are up, while Display Search, which tracks those sales worldwide, says sales are down.

A new Display Search forecast says the worldwide economic slump will hurt sales of flat screen TVs for the first time in almost a decade.

That, as major producers of flat panel televisions are cutting production 40 to 80 percent.

That means consumers should not expect flat screen TV prices to drop any lower than they are now for at least the next year.


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