Bowled over: Why it's a super time to buy a TV

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LG's almost "wallpaper thin" Signature OLED TV W7 is light enough to hang on the wall with magnets.

Along with the thrills and challenges of scoring a Black Friday mega-deal TV, nothing else motivates buyers or sells more televisions than a Super Bowl. So say Philly-based electronics pros who hail the annual happening as a big kick to their business.

“In the two-week period leading up to the game, we sell more sets than we normally do in six to eight weeks,” said World Wide Stereo president and CEO Bob Cole. “And remember when the Eagles made it there in 2005? We sold a four-month supply.” (WWS has both an online presence and retail stores in Montgomeryville and Ardmore.)

“It’s  a great time and motivator for consumers to upgrade their TVs,” seconded Richard Glikes, chairman of Azione Unlimited,  the Chester Springs-based trade group that represents and buys goods for 176 CE retail and custom integrators nationwide. “While you won’t find the crazy loss leaders of Black Friday, the TV deals for better sets are equally good right now. Sony has cut our set prices 10 percent – on TVs that don’t have much of a profit margin to start with.”

“The prices go back up the day after the game, with no exceptions,” said Cole. “To  get our rebates from the manufacturers, we have to provide  date-of-sale particulars and individual sets’ serial numbers.”

And another thing, murmured the pros. Could the Gizmo Guy please do them a major and call this sales motivator “The Big Game”? “The NFL does not take kindly to anyone using the name ‘Super Bowl’ in marketing materials,” said Cole. ”Even just using a picture of a player in a certain team colors' jersey gets them agitated. A very heavy, cease-and-desist letter lands on your desk instantly.”

 The National Football League has a “huge incentive” to be aggressive because “Super Bowl advertisers pay the league a great deal for exclusive sponsorship rights,” said Wilkinson Barker trademark attorney Mitchell Stabbe.

A recent Target ad touting LG TV deals for Big Day "LI" (51)  represented an end run around the league's defensive line. A 49-inch Smart UHD (marked down to $399.99) showed a triumphant football player alongside a floating NFL logo. But the image was cover art for the officially authorized “Madden 17” video game, also prominently featured for $34.99. The only other TV on the circular’s cover  – a 65-inch  (my recommended size) 4K Ultra HD LG  knocked down to $799  –  showed a  field of green turf with the overlaid motto “Tackle your party.”  'Nuff said?

The annual sport-focused sale also functions as an end-of-model-year closeout for manufacturers and retailers. “New models start trickling in during March and continue to do so up to August,” said Glikes. “Some companies start the transition with their priciest sets. Others go in the opposite direction, from the bottom up.”

So should you bite now, or wait for the next run of TVs? For the most part, the changes we spotted in top 2017 Ultra High Definition (4K) models unveiled at the recent CES trade show were incremental,  compared with the already tuned-up, first-tier 4K with HDR (high dynamic range color/contrast/brightness-enhancing) smart sets from Sony, Samsung, or LG now available at a discount.  

And in one realm, current models are a better choice. No new sets from LG and Sony will support 3D Blu-ray disc playback, while some (higher-end) 2016 models still do  -- with optional or included glasses. Samsung gave up on stereoscopic TV after its 2015 model year. The video projector makers Epson, JVC, and Sony are keeping the faith. And movie studios “will continue to put out  3D  discs where it makes marketing sense,” said Sony VP and Blu-ray Disc Association executive Victor Matsuda. He cited the recent Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the Ghostbusters: Answer the Call set, which bundles  3D, 2D, and UHD discs for rabid early adopters.

On the up side, LG’s 2017 OLED UHD sets promise loftier High Dynamic Range picture brightness peaks and can handle (uniquely) two more forms of HDR  processing, beyond the now ubiquitous HDR10 and enhanced Dolby Vision versions available in 2016 LG models.  That would prove an asset if 4K broadcast standard setters opt for one of the alternatives -- HLG (developed by the BBC and Japan’s NHK) and Technicolor/Philips’s Advanced HDR.  DirecTV favors HLG.    

LG also showed a super wow of a set called the Signature OLED TV W. It’s so wallpaper thin (2.57mm) and light (18 pounds in 65-inch form) that the thing can hang on a wall with magnets. But it’ll cost you a cool $8Gs, Cole hears, including a matching Dolby Atmos soundbar. A 77-inch version is also coming.

Samsung is touting higher brightness (up to 2,000 nits), better black levels, lower glare reflectivity, and better off-axis viewing for 2017 with its newly coined “QLED” line. The side viewing improvement is most notable when the screen is banging in the brightest “Vivid” mode. Samsung newbies also will appeal to decorators with a recessed mount system that hangs the sets thisclose to the wall.

Sony’s top A1E-series of Bravia tellys scored on two fronts. The seasoned set maker is embracing the OLED (organic light emitting diode) technology of LG, which produces “perfect” blacks and off-axis viewing. And Sony engineers are uniquely coaxing stereo sound from the screen itself, turning the whole panel into a “transducer.” So when characters talk, words come out of their mouths! As low-frequency sounds would make the screen vibrate, those will emanate from an angled piece on the back that doubles as a TV stand and folds flush for wall mounting. Cumulative sound is surprisingly good, in both plays.

 Is an A1E worth waiting for? Your call, quarterback. And because you don’t have to ask, you can afford it.