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If Americans stopped watching television, we'd all be in a heap of trouble. So, when I spy a headline predicting a video apocalypse, I follow up and dig deeper to see how confused the story writer might be. That is how my investigation into the real facts behind the above headline began. The press release in question was based on a new Accenture report titled, “Always on, always connected.” The story sounded ominous.

“Consumers intend to buy fewer televisions as they migrate to other consumer electronics devices,” it said.

That is not particularly surprising or even news. And, given that the survey was released on the eve of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), it made sense. Combine that thought with two particularly hot technologies (tablets and smartphones), and it should surprise no Broadcast Engineering reader that viewers want portable viewing solutions. People are looking for more ways to capture and watch television, stored video and other entertainment. Where is the buzz? Behind the headlines, the details emerge.

The Accenture survey claimed the percentage of consumers watching broadcast or cable TV in a typical week on televisions [emphasis added] fell from 71 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2011. And now (this is where the CES link exists), consistent with this drop in viewership was a smaller percentage of consumers who intended to buy new TV sets over the next year. Planned purchases declined from 35 percent in 2010 to 32 percent in 2011.

“Craving an always-on, always-connected lifestyle, consumers increasingly are using other consumer electronics devices in their daily lives to access the entertainment that only TV once provided,” said Mitch Cline, global managing director of Accenture's Electronics & High-Tech group. “While consumers will no doubt continue to buy TVs, consumers' preferences are shifting. They are rapidly substituting other screens, such as laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones, to view media content.”

Here is an example of these changes. Although tablets are still in their infancy, ownership of these devices grew by 50 percent last year. Fully 12 percent of survey respondents said they already own tablets.

Further confirmation of viewers' desire for portability is that twice as many respondents said they had plans to buy tablets this year, as did last year, making planned tablet purchases, in terms of percentage, the highest among the 19 technologies Accenture surveyed. Calling tablets a hot commodity may be an understatement.

Further, buried halfway through the survey results, was another noteworthy tidbit.

“Consumers are using multiple devices for entertainment, including to watch shows and videos,” the report said. “In a typical week, 33 percent of consumers now watch shows, movies or videos on their PCs, and 10 percent are watching such programs on their smartphones.”

What the survey confirmed, and those of us in this industry already know, is that viewers expect to be able to access their entertainment both in and out of the home. They want portability. And, in spite of the misleading headlines predicting the end of the TV world, viewers may not be watching any less television. They are just watching it on more devices.

Would your station's management panic if the audience dropped 23 points in only two years? Darn right it would panic. Unfortunately, so, too, could Madison Avenue if surveys like this one are not read carefully.

Viewers are not quitting television. They just want to access content on their terms.

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