How can a home television set cost $85,000? It's big. Bang & Olufsen's new BeoVision 4-85 plasma TV has an 85-inch screen, measured diagonally, which conveniently comes out to $1,000 an inch.
But there is at least one other plasma TV of that size, and it costs far less. Panasonic's 85-inch model goes for about $40,000.
B&O, known mainly for its high-end audio equipment, boasts other attributes for its BeoVision set, including a triangular speaker system that jets out from under the screen, 3-D capability and proprietary enhancements to picture quality.
But the biggest difference, it turns out, is the stand the set sits on. It's a massive motorized unit that dramatically lifts the TV off the floor and into preset viewing positions with the push of the power button.
The screen and stand together are so heavy that the company won't sell the BeoVision 4-85 unless a structural engineer inspects the home floor space to ensure it won't cave under the weight.
"It's as much for our security as the customers'," said product manager Dave Zapfel, at the local debut of the TV at a B&O store in Beverly Hills, Calif. "We're talking about a 1,000-pound TV tipping over."
B&O started shipping the sets in July, at the rate of about 25 a month, and is selling out, according to Zean Nielsen, president of B&O America. The biggest markets for the BeoVision 4-85 have been in Russia and China, Nielsen said. About 25 have sold in the United States. Panasonic would not disclose sales figures for its 85-inch set.
"If you can buy a $200,000 car and spend $4 million on a house and own a couple of homes around the world," Zapfel said, "these are our customers." There's currently a 10-week waiting list to get one, Nielsen said.
The stand, made of steel tubing nearly an inch thick, features the same kind of mechanism as used in some hospital beds. After the TV slowly rises up, it can then be swiveled to the left or right, or tilted back and forward, all by remote control.
The motorized movement of the TV, the B&O website says, is something "that you just may find to be entertainment itself."
Perhaps more than "Jersey Shore."
For $85,000, most people will expect something in addition to stand movements, and the BeoVision 4-85 touts a proprietary picture quality system that features a robotic arm, hidden behind the frame, that pops down after every 100 viewing hours. It examines the screen close-up and makes adjustments to the color mix to compensate for changes that could come with age.
The company referred to this as "anti-wrinkle cream for your TV."
Another perk: Every time the TV is turned on, digital electronic curtains that mimic the velvet curtains at vintage movie theaters glide open across the screen.
Is that enough to justify $85,000?
It was for Helen Hu, 43, who bought one for the townhouse she recently purchased in San Francisco.
"It's very expensive, but if you want the best merchandise you need to pay much more money," said Hu, who works for a Chinese consumer electronics company. Her husband owns a construction company based in China.
She didn't stop at getting just the TV. She also purchased a set of external B&O speakers that go for about $23,000 a pair, and bought extra pairs of the electronic 3-D glasses the set uses.
Although B&O delivers the TV at no extra charge anywhere in the world, the company doesn't install it - Zapfel said that generally costs the buyer at least $10,000.
All in all, Hu said she spent about $135,000.
For consumers who want an even bigger TV, B&O sells a 103-inch version for a base price of $113,000. But Nielsen said the 85-inch model "is more friendly and easier to get into customers' homes. People seem to want something bigger than 65 inches and smaller than 103 inches."
Hans Michael, 59, stopped by the inaugural event in Beverly Hills. The investment banker, who lives in Malibu, said he has owned several B&O audio systems over the years. But he wasn't going for the BeoVision 4-85.
"They have great gadgets," Michael said, "but no matter how nice, I don't know what could be worth paying $85,000.
"After all, it's only a TV."
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