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Smart TVs Are Popular, Say Retailers On TWICE Panel

New York – Smart TVs are popular, their features are more advanced than ever, and they are selling profitably at retail.

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 New Bay Media’s TWICE, Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News, held here Thursday morning.

The panel, moderated by TWICE executive editor Greg Tarr, featured Tom Campbell, corporate advisor 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, “These are much more than TVs. 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.”

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 ten 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. And 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 to have show customers smart TV benefits is a real boom for us. You can demonstrate these features.”

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

Howe said that not having specialty retailers introduce 3D hurt the feature because of a lack of demonstration on the part of many retailers “we missed the boat.”

However she noted “with 4K TVs and the upconverting 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.”