The World Watches Less TV

Brace yourself. According to a new report by Accenture, the number of consumers watching broadcast or cable TV in 2011 in an average week was just 48%. That number is down from 71% just two years earlier in 2009. (The survey includes an international sample, drawing data from the United States, France, Japan, China, and India.) What is driving the change? According to the same study, one third of the consumers watch video content on their personal computers, and one out of ten watch video content on smartphones.

Clearly, streaming video is one of the primary forces behind this change, but it also appears to signal a shift that I’ve been talking about for years. It seems that the traditional group activity of watching television is transforming into a solo activity done on a personal device. We’ve already seen this shift dominate the music business; how much time do you spend listening to music with other people, compared with the amount of time you spend listening through earphones?

This has some serious implications for the television industry. Are people going to stop putting a large screen in their living room or other central location? Accenture’s report indicates that this may be the trend. Only 20% of consumers indicated that they intend to buy an HDTV (of any size) in 2012, which is down from 25% last year. Yes, it’s likely that the market is fairly saturated at this point and the economy has people budgeting a bit tighter, but this is still a large drop.

We’ve already seen other research indicating that people are looking at their laptops, tablets, and smartphones at the same time that they are “watching” a large screen television. It remains to be seen whether this is just an infatuation with our connected gadgets or a true signal that we are privatizing our entertainment experiences, but it could be that these changes could have a profound effect on the consumer electronics market.

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