An annual survey of American video viewing behaviour reveals that while over half of online consumers watch television shows and movies online at least occasionally, there is still growth in their use of video on demand, digital video recorder and digital video discs. The more alternative platforms they use, the more it seems they tend to spend on traditional television subscription services. However, in a cost-conscious economy, consumers are more than ever looking for bargains.

An optimistic report from Frank N Magid Associates suggests that satisfaction with high-definition is at an all-time high among customers of pay-television providers.

The intention to purchase a new television is no apparently almost back to the level expressed before the recession. Four in ten people said they will shop for a new television set in the next year, with 28% looking for a new primary television. That will be good news for manufacturers and retailers in difficult economic conditions.

Superior display, widescreen format and internet connectivity are the features in greatest demand. Over six in ten of those looking to buy a television said internet connectivity is an important factor in their decision to purchase.

Less important, it seems, is 3D. The proportion of those planning to buy a 3D TV set has fallen over the last year from 67% to 49%. It is estimated that 3% of American households now own a 3D TV set.

“Consumers have been streaming TV shows and movies to the TV screen enabled by a very diverse set of devices, including game consoles, computers, streaming specific devices like Apple TV and Blu-ray players, so an internet-connected Smart TV is the desirable next step,” said Maryann Baldwin of Magid Media Futures.

Magid has tracked consumer viewing attitudes and behaviours for over a decade, following the emergence of new viewing technologies and the corresponding evolution of consumer habits.

The survey is based on a nationally representative sample of over 1,500 online consumers aged over 12 years and was carried out in late October 2011.

In 2011, more than 27% of televisions shipped worldwide will be able to connect to a network, a figure that NPD DisplaySearch expects to rise to 50% by 2015. Inclusion of wireless networking will also increase connection rates, allowing not only streaming of online video but also ad-hoc features such as viewing video and photos from smart phones and enabling tablets to become sophisticated viewing guides and remote controls.

Whether consumers want it or not, panel and display manufacturers are continuing to promote 3D TV. While some 10% of LCD TV panel shipments in 2011 will be 3D capable, manufacturers are apparently targeting 20% in 2012. The incremental cost of 3D capability is marginal, but it provides a further reason for consumers to upgrade their displays.

That said, year on year sales of LCD televisions are flat, as are revenues for panel manufacturers. Retailers will be hoping that sales increase in the run up to the end of the year, although prices are becoming ever more competitive, squeezing margins to the minimum. So-called Black Friday sales saw aggressive price discounting, with large-screen televisions among the biggest bargains on offer.

Annual global spending on consumer electronics is projected to grow just 1.5% to $357.3 billion in 2011. IHS iSuppli expects that of that LCD TV sales will be worth $104 billion, down on previous expectations.