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Todd Katcher

Todd Katcher Managing Partner

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Consumer vs. Commercial TVs

Are you struggling to find the right TV for your dealership?
Are vendors telling you that commercial TV's are necessary?

Let's cut through the BS and understand the different and allow you to make the proper decisions for your store and budget.

About 10 years ago, the only way to get a high definition picture was to use Commercial Grade TVs. These TVs were used in single installations and media walls. Back then, the high definition was 1360x768, but your average TV show was broadcast in 480P. To compare to today's standard, most TV's now are 1920x1080 (1080P) with the broadcasts to match. The commercial grade TV's were the standard in digital signage and most didn't come with speakers.

The main selling point of commercials TV's - then and now - is their reliability, lifespan and warranty. The technology in these TV's were designed for 24/7/356 operation in a variety of environments with limited burn-in. (burn-in is the term used for the lines that may be 'burned' in the screen from the same image on for extended amount of 

time). In order to keep the technology cool, most Commercial TV's are thicker to leave room for fans and additional components such as heat sinks.

Commercial TV's are primarily sold through 'boutique' dealers who have limited inventory and online retailers. Many of the manufacturers will sell direct to consumers as well. Herein lies a challenge should a replacement or service be needed that can take several days.

Today's consumer TV's -- found in every electronics store and online -- have increased in quality and decreased in price exponentially over the last five years. High-Definition, 1080P, LED TV's are available in a variety of sizes and have proven to be reliable and easy to manage with super thin bezels, bright displays and lightweight designs. And for those adventurious, there is also 4K, offering 4 x 1080P resolution.

When comparing purchasing Consumer vs Commercial TV's there are several factors to consider:

1) Price - commercial TV's are three to four times the cost of consumer televisions
WINNER: Consumer: lower implementation cost, lower replacement cost, lower cost for larger sized televisions

2) Size - consumer TV's have size ranges that vary greater then commercial TV's
WINNER: Consumer: for standard uses, Consumer size selection vs. cost is an advantage. 
NOTE: Commercial TVs are readily available in unique sizes, shapes, configurations and resolutions making them the choice for unique solutions.

3) Availability - consumer TV's can be picked up locally or ordered through over 100 retailers, whereas Commercial TV availability is limited
WINNER: Consumer: if you need another TV, it's easy access. Replacing or servicing a consumer TV is also easier then commercial

4) Weight - consumer TV's are lighter the commercial TV's making them easier to hang and move if needed
WINNER: Consumer: the ease of mounting options due to lightweight design far outweigh the benefits of heavier commercial TV's

5) Warranty - commercial TV's usually come standard with a 2 or 3 year warranty whereas consumer TV's come with a 1 or 2 year warranty. 
WINNER: Commercial TV's standard warranty is greater then Consumer TV's
NOTE: Extended consumer warranties cost under $100. Replacement of an entire TV is still less then buying a Commercial TV.

So, the question that arises is

"If consumer TV's offer a greater degree of cost vs benefit, then why do some providers supply or recommend commercial TVs"

Commercial TVs have been the standard for digital signage for twenty years, but in today's current technology world, the Commercial sales have dropped considerably. Most providers that use or recommend commercial systems aren't up to date with signage and technology. They are using what someone told them instead of being updated with the times and technology. Commercial has it's place in 24/7/365 usage and that's it - think Hotels, Airports, etc.

BB&T Center - a 20,000 person stadium that is home of the Florida Panthers and hundreds of concerts a year - recently did an implementation of digital menu boards at all concessions. With over 500 signs to buy, what did they do?

They used INSIGNIA (Best Buy) LED TVs. According to their management, there were four reasons why they went this route -- against the installers recommendation:

1) Cost - these screens were 75% LESS expensive then the commercial TVs. This means, that they would have to replace them 4x to break even.

2) Reliability - LED Screens can withstand heat, light, elements better then LCD and Plasma TVs

3) Time - the systems would not be on 24/7, so the benefits of commercial screens was not seen

4) Availability - if a TV goes out, that's a poor reflection on the stadium and management. They can go to a local Best Buy and pick one up in a matter of hours.

In another example, Dunkin Donuts did an implementation in over 1000 stores of signage by the checkout counter using a variety of brands that were available. In conversations with management, they left the purchase decision up to the individual stores and every one choose a consumer television. 

These are examples of large and profitable companies implementing a signage solution of 1000+ screens and they are grabbing the consumer versions because of the aforementioned reasons.

Don't fall prey to Digital Signage providers boosting up prices and telling dealers stories about reliability of systems to rationalize what amounts to extortionate rates.

If you have questions about signage, televisions, monitors, splitters, connections, etc. please drop me a note at

Todd Katcher is the Managing Partner of the Digital Dealership System, the premier digital sign soltuion for car dealers offering customized digital signage and kiosks to the auto industry.


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