The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) issued a report stating half of U.S. homes now own a digital television, with sales up 11 percent from 2006. The CEA says it predicts a 17 percent growth in sales and a 13 percent rise in revenues in 2008. The CEA says affordable prices and higher consumer awareness allows home integrators to entice new customers.
"This is great news for home integrators," says CEA spokeswoman Meghan Henning, who asked for, and received, a digital television for Christmas. When she considered issues like space requirements and peripherals like speakers, she realized the importance of integrators.
"When you buy an HDTV, you are getting the picture, but you really need the audio, too," she says. "Having an integrator involved is really important." Henning stresses the importance of getting "the full experience" of digital television, which may involve surround sound audio, DVD or high-definition DVD connections, and remote controls to tie the system together.
"The positioning of the speakers, all that stuff -- that's a great place for the integrators to step in," she says. "They can show people how all this technology hooks together."
The steady decline in price and increased consumer awareness of the picture quality have more to do with the trend than does the FCC mandate that all broadcasts must be digital by 2009. Those who own analog TVs will simply need a set-top converter. "We're seeing the demand because consumers are just liking what they're seeing," Henning says. "They're buying them because they went to their neighbor's house and they see it and they think its beautiful."
She also points out more and more television shows are being broadcast in high definition, and in some cases whole channels are dedicated to HD programming. "The high-def DVD market is spurring it as well," she says. "I really do think it's both the price and what you're getting -- this absolutely beautiful picture." Dan Bright, president of New Milford, N.J.-based eInteractive Homes, says he views the report as somewhat of a mixed bag. "[The report] is exciting on some notes but uneventful on others," he says. "From a strictly business point it is not good news. We're doing more installations but we're not making any money on the TV sales."
Instead, Bright says his company is focusing on services like mounting and connecting audio systems together. Although the drop in prices puts a squeeze on TV sales margins, the affordability factor is bringing eInteractive Homes new customers. "One positive thing is it's certainly brought an excitement to that part of the living room," he says. "People we normally wouldn't cater to, now we're getting calls to install the flat panel and hide the wires in the walls."
The compact architecture of flat panel televisions and the customer's desire for seamless integration also fuels business, Bright notes. "Before it wasn't really that important to people," he says. "That's created something really positive."