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Retailers Are Bullish On Smart TVs, Concludes TWICE Panel

NEW YORK – Retailers are bullish on smart TVs due to the advanced features, sales growth and the ability to sell these fully featured large-screen sets profitably.

Those were some of the comments of the retailers on the “Smart TVs: Use and Differentiation” panel at the 2nd Screen Summit, which was produced by the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance, and NewBay Media’s TWICE, Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News, held here, June 27.

The panel, moderated by TWICE executive editor Greg Tarr, featured Tom Campbell, corporate director and spokesperson for Video Audio Center; Robert Zohn, owner of Value Electronics; Ben Arnold, industry analysis director of The NPD Group; Jeanette Howe, executive director of Specialty Electronics Nationwide, a division of Nationwide Marketing Group; and Tim Alessi, new product development director of LG Electronics. Campbell said Video Audio Center, based in Santa Monica, Calif., has had “a 300 percent increase” in sales of smart TVs this year. “We launched smart TVs early and have embraced the product. We are showing smartphones and tablets, and we are looking for ways to provide solutions and display [all the] products because … these are much more than TVs.”

He added, “They provide entertainment, security, game playing, web access all in one box. With apps it is a tremendous buy.” And he noted that his chain’s 4K introductions with LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony have been highly successful even though prices are still in the five-figure range, due in part “because we have a 4K department.”

Zohn, whose store is based in Scarsdale, N.Y., said the growth in smart TVs “is even better than Tom’s” and said his staff “is well trained to sell smart TVs and 4K. It takes five minutes to explain to grandparents how to Skype with their grandchildren. People are having fun with these sets. TV is now more of an appliance, for gaming, Skype, news, YouTube, web surfing and so many other uses.”

He added, “Larger screens and smart TVs are our market.”

Zohn commented on this year’s smart TVs by saying, “I always say that every year [in TVs] technology leapfrongs, but this year it is a bullfrog on steroids.”

Arnold, while not negative about the market, tempered some of the enthusiasm by saying that smart TVs’ attachment rates to the web have been steady the past year and a half, and that “it is a great feature, but not a killer app.”

He said that video access today comes from tablets, smartphones, networked streaming devices and PCs, to name a few. “There are many options and services compared to 10 years ago when standard DVD was the only source. Connectivity via TVs is one of several ways today to get content.” But, he noted, “the smart-TV [attachment and acceptance rate] is rising … but not going straight up, but it’s a great feature to have.”

LG’s Alessi disagreed, saying sales forecasts of double-digit growth in smart TV are being met now. He added, “Speaking for LG, 75 percent of our line consists of smart TVs.” He noted for non-smart TVs of the same size, “the cost is minor, about $100 or less.”

Alessi added that while there are “a lot of alternatives [to get smart-TV functions] via Blu-ray, Roku and others, the best way is to have it built into the TV. There is almost too much content out there, and you need a multiplatform search.”

Howe agreed with Alessi and her fellow retailers that smart-TV sales are going strong. “Like others who offer custom-installation services, we have to show customers. Smart-TV benefits are a real boom for us. You can demonstrate these features.”

She said that stats show many smart TVs don’t get hooked up because “they come from Internet sales.”

Howe noted, “With 4K TVs and the up-converting of content built in, we have content,” unlike with 3D. “We are psyched about 4K, just like we are with smart TVs. Since we can demonstrate it, we can provide consumers with a real experience.”

Zohn called on retailers to demonstrate the features “and show the experience.”