Big Flat-Panel TV Sets in Big Demand

Flat-panel television sets are due to outsell models with picture tubes by more than seven to one this year. Inch for inch, the price of flat screens is coming down. But instead of pocketing the savings, many consumers are upgrading to ever-larger sets.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Flat screen TVs are once again expected to be a big seller this holiday season, but buyers will have to clear more space under the tree, as NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Flat panel TV sets will outsell picture tube models by more than seven to one this year. Inch for inch, the price of flat screens is coming down. But instead of pocketing the savings, many consumers are simply upgrading to ever-larger sets.

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HORSLEY: At Sony's, North American headquarters in San Diego, Vice President Jeff Goldstein shows off a 52-inch television, another set of 70 inches across, and a comparably puny TV with the screen that's only 40 inches.

Mr. JEFF GOLDSTEIN (Vice President, Sony): People, when they're in the shop, look at a 32 or 40-inch screen compared to a 46 or a 52-inch screen. And they think, boy, that's a pretty small TV.

HORSLEY: Manufacturers had encouraged the trend towards larger sets, which are more profitable, and consumers have followed right along.

Jason Oxman of the Consumer Electronics Association said last year, only about 30 percent of all television sold were 36 inches or larger. This year, that figure is approaching 50 percent.

Mr. JASON OXMAN (Communications Vice President, Consumer Electronics Association): 2008 will be the tipping point where the majority of sets sold will be more then 36 inches.

HORSLEY: Most of those will be lightweight, flat panels. Sony's Goldstein says, unlike the old picture tube sets, even the biggest flat panels don't need three people to carry them.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, San Diego.

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