Tom Sheridan stood inside Best Buy in Natomas on Tuesday and marveled at the 70-inch flat screen TVs selling for about $3,000 the same price he paid for a 50-incher in 2006.
"It's incredible what you can buy," said Sheridan, 32.
For Sheridan, part of getting ready for the Super Bowl is buying a new TV. And each year the deals just get better.
Coming shortly after the holidays, Super Bowl Sunday helps drive TV sales for the electronics industry. Retailers say this year's presence of the San Francisco 49ers in the big game gives fans in Northern California an extra reason to buy.
The National Retail Federation estimates 7.5 million American households will purchase a television for Super Bowl 2013, up about 46 percent from last year.
"After we get through the craze of the holidays and Black Friday, it's a nice time for retailers and manufacturers to keep some of that momentum going," said Ben Arnold, a technology industry analyst for the NPD Group, a market research firm based in Port Washington, N.Y.
Sales of TVs 55 inches and larger during the week leading up to the Super Bowl rose 28 percent from 2011 to 2012, Arnold said. At the same time, the average price of those TVs dropped 9 percent.
"The overall trend in the industry is prices have been falling really fast over time," said Chris Conlon, a Columbia University economics professor who studies the television industry. "We get bigger and better TVs, which is good for consumers but bad for the TV guys."
Sheridan, of Sacramento, said about 20 people come over for his annual Super Bowl party. The 70-inch TV will go in his living room, he said, while guests can also watch the game on his other 50-inch flat screens on the patio with the grill.
His wife is the big 49ers fan, he said. He supports the Detroit Lions.
Sheridan looked at the Best Buy screens, noting how the picture changed with various viewing angles.
Clarity from different perspectives distinguishes plasma TVs from LCD displays, said Steve Wittig of the locally owned Filco Discount Superstore.
Plasma displays are known for consistency with different viewing angles and used to have better contrast, Wittig said, but LCD is the more popular display type.
LCDs are competitive because of their cost of production, Conlon said. Plasma displays were primarily used for big screens until technology improvements allowed LCDs to be built at bigger sizes, he said.
LED and OLED TVs were introduced as upgrades of the LCD format, and the more expensive LCD models are built with glass that prevents image distortion from different angles, Wittig said.
"A lot has changed since the earlier days of plasma and LCD," he said.
Football fans who want action displayed clearly should mind a TV's refresh rate, Wittig said, while big-screen buyers "definitely want" the 1080p screen resolution.
Internet-connected TVs, 3-D displays and the new 4K "ultra high definition" format have been introduced with varying degrees of success as manufacturers look for features to slow the decline of profits, Conlon said.
There's little data to suggest a Super Bowl berth increases TV sales for home team businesses, but Arnold said the combination of low prices and a rare appearance offer a "compelling reason" for 49ers fans to shop.
"Directly they'll say they want it for the big game, but indirectly they know there are a lot of sales out there," Wittig said.
Super Bowl TV promotions emphasize big screens for the big game, but small TVs still account for most sales, Conlon said. During Super Bowl sales week in 2012, 41 percent of TVs sold were 32 inches or smaller, Arnold said.
The Super Bowl marks the end of the holiday season, when 35 to 40 percent of TVs are sold, Conlon said. Sales tend to pick up in the spring, when tax rebates and closeout sales combine with March Madness, Wittig said.
"The holidays have built up to this point," said Best Buy sales consultant Marcus Luhs. "It's TVs nonstop."