J.D. Power: Consumers Want Their HDTV Again And Again

They are expensive toys, but consumers love them. No--not yachts, but high-definition TV sets (HDTVs). That's the good news for manufacturers of liquid crystal, plasma, and rear-projection TVs.

The bad news? There really isn't any, although there is a ranking: among makes, Sony, Pioneer, and Samsung are consumer favorites in the HDTV product category, according to an inaugural study by J.D. Power & Associates looking at consumer satisfaction with HDTV.

Despite the high price tag--between $1,700 and $2,700--consumers say they like the devices a lot, recommend them to friends, and plan to buy another HDTV.

The "2007 Large Screen HDTV Usage and Satisfaction Study" measures customer satisfaction with HDTVs around picture, sound, ease of operation and appearance/styling. The study also looks at sub-segments broken down by size and technology.

The study finds that owners report high levels of repurchase intent, with 91% of owners saying they would buy the same brand of 37- to-49-inch HDTVs, and 92% of those who own a 50- to-65-inch and Rear Projection TV. Over 90% of respondents said they would recommend their HDTV brands to others.



In the study, based on responses from 5,389 HDTV owners who purchased an HDTV between August 2006 and July 2007, respondents who bought their HDTVs from a big-box retailer, electronics specialty store or online outlet said they were attracted by the picture quality. Those who bought from a discount retailer, warehouse or office supply store say that price was foremost in their minds.

Larry Wu, senior director in charge of technology practice at the consultancy, says the high repurchase and recommendation numbers reveal the high level of consumer satisfaction with the devices.

He says people love new, improved things--no matter what--and that new technology by itself creates happy customers. "I spent the first nine years [at J.D. Power] in the automotive group, so when CD changers first came out, drivers loved them. Even when they had problems, they would rather have the CD changer, so that's part of it; I think there are a lot of first-time buyers coming in, replacing the family-room television with an HDTV."

Wu says that a little over 70% of the 5,389 HDTV owners polled for the study were first-time owners, with 30% either replacing or buying an additional HDTV. He points out that although flat-screen TVs have been in the market for a number of years, there has been a brisk increase in sales driven by technology improvements and price softening.

"Year-over-year, you see an inflection point, with either the price drops, or more features, more content available in HD format, so the market has been growing very, very quickly over the last 3 to 5 years in the U.S. It's a fairly mass-market now, if you are talking about 37- to-49-inch HDTVs. The 60-inch plasma screens are still niche, but most people shopping for TVs now are considering flat panel."

The consultancy also found that, for online shoppers, picture quality was the most important factor. "These are people who either research on the Web a lot, or went to the store and picked which one they liked the best then shopped online," says Wu.

Of the parameters contributing to brand rank, picture and sound quality was most important, per Wu--with ease of operation and features second, and a fifth of overall weighting was based on design and appearance.

"I think there's a lot of good news, because most everyone had very high levels of satisfaction across the board; yes, when you dive deeper, every manufacturer can find where they can work on improvement, but when a new model comes out with the latest and greatest features, the bar keeps on rising at a very quick pace. The improvement of the TVs paired with the price decreases is very dramatic."

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