Anyone in the market for a top-performing 4K Ultra HDTV this year might have noticed that prices don’t seem to be quite as aggressively promoted as they have been in the recent past.

This year’s top-of-the line LG 4K OLED TV – the 65-inch two-piece Signature Series 65W7 came in almost two months ago at a $7,999.99 suggested retail price, and remains there almost two months later. Understandably, this is a low-volume, high-end product targeted at the custom home theater installation market, but the trend has continued into lower-end models as well.

For example, the LG 65E7 was first announced at $5,999.99, after initially being revealed to dealers at a lower suggested retail price. That price recently dropped to an everyday $5,499.99 unilateral pricing policy (UPP) price as Samsung and Sony prepared to ship their top-end 4K UHD QLED, and OLED TVs, respectively – the Samsung 65Q9F and the Sony Bravia 65A1E.

LG has assured that the picture quality of the W7 series and all of the lower series in the assortment are the same. The differences from series to series are primarily cosmetic.

Meanwhile, Sony, which will soon deliver its 4K Ultra HD Bravia OLED TVs, announced its 65-inch Bravia 65A1E model would carry a $6,499.99 suggested retail. But the company had initially told dealers the suggested retail price would be $5,499.99, which is the everyday UPP price the set is retailing for now on Amazon.

Meanwhile, Samsung’s 65Q9 is now hitting the market at a $5,999.99 unilateral pricing policy (UPP) price. Although it has new QLED technology and brighter peak luminance, the set omits the expensive full array LED back lighting system with local dimming that had been part of Samsung’s top tier series for the past three years. Yet the price remains high.

So, what’s up?

Read more on the state of 2017 TV pricing after the jump:

The answer appears to be related a variety of factors including limited panel supplies and higher panel prices, new competition (for OLED) and possible attempts by marketers to put more margin back into a product category that has had its profitability savaged by brutal competition for years.

To find out what might be going on, we spoke with Paul Gagnon TV analysis director with IHS who agreed, that what we might be seeing with the initially high announced prices this year was an attempt by a few manufacturers to establish a pricing reset to bring TV margins more in line with rising costs at the higher end of the market.

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“We’ve been anticipating, and are now hearing some confirmations, that the introductory pricing for 2017 new models were renegotiated higher, at least on a temporary basis. The critical question remains though: how firm are those prices if demand suddenly falls?” Gagnon told HD Guru.

The reason for the apparent pricing reset and backing off promotional discounting (at least temporarily) “stems from tight supply and LCD panel prices that continued rising into the January/February period,” he continued.

According to the IHS TV market tracking service, the display panel industry witnessed “a lot of margin erosion during Q4 that left little room for promotions in Q2 this year. By raising the starting price of new models a bit, there is margin room to run periodic promotions around the normal holidays,” Gagnon said.

Ultimately, this means that if you are in the market for a TV at the best price, you might have to wait at least until Memorial Day or Father’s Day for the first real deals on 2017 products. At this point, with the exception of an upcoming LeEco Mother’s Day promotion on smartphones and one Super4 series TV, there doesn’t seem to be a lot coming from the vendor side.

The LeEco Mother’s Day promotion begins May 8th at 12:01 a.m. EDT and runs through May 14th at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

LeEco has said it will offer its Super4 X43 43-inch 4K Ultra HDTV at a special $349 Mother’s Day special price on the www.leeco.com web site during that period.

Other LeEco specials offered in the promotion include: the Le S3 smartphone for $169 (regularly $199 – $30 instant rebate) including a free case and screen protector and three months of DirecTV NOW; the LE Pro3 smartphone for $299 (regularly $349 – $50 instant rebate) including a free EB30 Bluetooth headphone (regularly $39.99) and three months of DirecTV Now; LeEco reverse in-ear earphones for $4.99 (regularly $14.99 – $10 instant rebate) and a LeEco power bank for $12.99 ($39.99 – $27 instant rebate).

As for the dearth of other manufacturer-driven TV specials in the early months of the year, Gagnon observed: “Certainly, the consumer will dictate how well this pricing will hold up, since a severe drop in units would not be good either. Striking the balance between slower [average selling price] erosion and slower volume to stabilize revenues is the key, along with growing the size mix aggressively.”

As for whether a shift in LCD panel availability might influence lower pricing later in the year, Gagnon wasn’t very optimistic.

“We are not anticipating much in the way of loosening of LCD panel supply this year as the capacity is not expected to grow very much due to some delayed investment. At best, there may be some loosening (and resulting panel price relief) sometime in Q3, but it won’t be significant based on our current outlook.”

So, if you’re holding out for a super discount on one of those new 2017 sets you’ve had your eyes on, you might be disappointed by what you find ahead. In the meantime, good deals remain on select 2016 models.

By Greg Tarr

 

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