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For TVs, it’s a good time to go long

With prices falling, football fans, others purchasing larger TVs

Evan McGlinn for The Boston Globe

Sales of televisions with 60-inch screens or larger are expected to jump 40 percent this year, even as overall TV sales decline slightly.

For Patriots fan Victor Ortiz, a 50-inch screen was not large enough for the biggest football game of the season. So, on Tuesday, he walked into Paul’s TV in Reading, and walked out the proud owner of an LED television with a 55-inch screen to replace his smaller set.

“I’m getting it delivered in time for the Super Bowl,’’ said Ortiz.

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Ortiz is among the many football and nonfootball fans heading to electronics stores to take advantage of what is one of the best times to upgrade a television, which to most people means getting a bigger set.

As the price of televisions has declined over the years, the average screen size has increased roughly 60 percent, to 36 inches in 2011 from 22 inches in 1997, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, a trade group in Virginia.

The trend is expected to continue. Televisions with 60-inch screens or larger are the fastest-growing segment of the market, with sales of these monsters expected to jump 40 percent this year, to 1.2 million sets, even as overall television sales decline slightly.

In 2010, televisions with 60-plus-inch screens accounted for about 3 percent of TV sales, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. That share is expected to nearly double to 5 percent this year. “Big is in,’’ said Jamie Garelli, director of stores at Paul’s TV, a chain with three locations in Massachusetts.

Paul’s, which markets itself as the “The King of Big Screen,’’ has been aggressively marketing its televisions in advance of tomorrow’s Super Bowl, Garelli said, offering sale prices, three years of interest-free financing, and guaranteed delivery by the day of the game. Three years ago, Paul’s was selling 55- and 60-inch TVs for about $5,000; today they go for about $1,500.

“One hundred and three inches is the biggest TV we sell,’’ Garelli said. “The 60- to 65-inch TVs are definitely our most popular.’’

Kevin Small and his girlfriend didn’t go quite that big when shopping this week at the Best Buy at South Bay Center, but they did add 26 inches, upgrading to a 46-inch set from a 20-incher.

“We needed a new TV and it was my idea for the timing - to get it before the Super Bowl,’’ Small said. “I’m a big Pats fan, so I had to have a new TV.’’

Retailers have often slashed TV prices in anticipation of the nation’s most-watched television event. This year’s rematch of the Patriots and New York Giants is expected to attract more than 170 million viewers, according to the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, and about 5 million say they will buy new sets for the game.

Kevin Koufos, manager at the Best Buy at Cambridgeside Galleria, said the electronics chain considers this time of year “home theater drive time,’’ and his store traffic has increased since the Patriots won the AFC championship and a chance to avenge their loss four years ago to the Giants, who ruined an otherwise perfect Patriots season. Best Buy officials declined to provide sales numbers.

Mike Gatti, senior vice president of the National Retail Federation’s marketing division, said football fans often buy televisions before the Super Bowl because it’s cheaper than attending the game, and they can enjoy the purchase after the last pass is thrown. “Every time you buy one, “ he said, “you’re certainly not going to buy a smaller one.’’

Consumers have been able to afford increasingly larger TVs because of the steady drop in prices. Last year, the average cost of a 60-plus-inch screen dropped 14 percent, the Consumer Electronics Association said. This year, prices are expected to fall another 14 percent, to an average of $1,800.

Retailers have helped that trend along, promoting Super Bowl-themed sales. Target.com is pushing high-definition TV deals “for the big game,’’ including a 55-inch Philips LCD television for $899, down from $1,024.79. Best Buy, meanwhile, entreats customers to “make the smart play’’ with several TV deals, including a 55-inch Samsung for $1,799.99 - $1,000 off its regular price.

But not everyone shopping for television deals is driven by their love of football. Holly Malarney and her husband visited the Best Buy at Cambridgeside last weekend looking to replace a 32-inch tube television. After two months of research, they knew that pre-Super Bowl is one of the best times to buy. The Chelsea couple had their eyes on a 46-inch Samsung going for $1,299.99, but settled for a 46-inch LG for about $700. “We want to get it before the Super Bowl so we can get the best prices,’’ Malarney said.

Ellen Konsevick of Jamaica Plain said she planned to buy a TV during the holidays, then saw on the news that retailers can offer better deals before the Super Bowl. “I put a note on my calendar to go buy one last weekend,’’ Konsevick said. She is now waiting for her new 42-inch flat screen to be delivered from the Best Buy in Dedham. The $550 set will replace her 28-inch tube television. “I got the price I wanted,’’ she said. As for the Super Bowl, “I’ll be watching it on a flat screen TV at my daughter’s house with my grandson.’’

Erin Ailworth can be reached at eailworth@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ailworth.
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