Big-Screen TV Depression? Not In These Economic Times

The economy got you down? No money for gas or food?

That could be because you just plunked down $2,000 for that flat screen.

Auto makers like General Motors and Toyota Motor Sales are trimming back estimates for their big-ticket consumer products. And, of course, the housing business is still in the tank. But consumers are spending -- makers of digital TV have seen a jump in sales to some 18% this year.

Not all of this has to do with the coming of new network shows like ABC's "Opportunity Knocks" or NBC's "Kath & Kim."  For one thing, prices have fallen dramatically, to the point that you can get a spiffy new 50" HDTV flat screen for a grand or so.

Viewers, of course, aren't just thinking about price and traditional TV.  There are all those game consoles that need a good monitor. Other TV households may just think it makes some nice wall art. In fact, one video entrepreneur is offering  a service that digitally sends some famous art pieces to fit that electronic frame when not in use for traditional TV viewing.



All these factors indicate that consumers place a higher value on entertainment options -- if not now, then certainly in the coming years.  They may have to walk to work or eat tuna fish every night for dinner, but at least they'll have the feeling of living large when settling in for some super-detailed video HDTV work in "My Name Is Earl."

Movies were a big hit in the Great Depression, too. But the rush to digital TVs may be due in part to great marketing and consumer ignorance. Says one electronic research firm:  "Although many consumers may not understand what high definition really is from a technical perspective, they definitely know that they want it."

Consumers may also think they need a new TV because of the coming conversion to all-digital signals. They don't. (Who says that the new federally supported digital conversion marketing campaign isn't working?)

In crumbing homes, big-screen TVs in front of chipping wallboard and ratty carpeting will make for a nice backdrop when "Dateline: NBC" or "Primetime" investigate how families are adjusting to lower incomes, few new jobs, and a weak economy.

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