More than one-fifth of all televisions purchased by U.S. consumers in the first quarter sported displays that were 50 inches or larger, representing an all-time-high level, according to IHS iSuppli research.

A total of 22.7 percent of American consumers bought the aforesaid TV sets during the three months from January to March 2011, compared to 19.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010.

“The rising popularity of 50-inch-and-larger sets among U.S. consumers stems from pure market economics,” said Riddhi Patel, director for television systems and retail services at IHS, in a statement. “Televisions have become less expensive for the consumer, allowing even bigger sets previously considered beyond the reach of most consumers to become accessible.”

Average pricing for 50-inch-and-larger flat-panel TVs – i.e., liquid crystal display (LCD) and plasma – in the United States amounted to $1,582 in the first quarter of 2011, down 8 percent from $1,723 in the fourth quarter of 2010.

While sales of 50-inch-and-larger TVs are on the rise, smaller sets remain the most popular option for most consumers. Reigning as the preferred size range for U.S. consumers were TV sets sized 40-49 inches, capturing 39.5 percent of sales in the first quarter this year, IHS iSuppli data show.

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