Television as we know it will be redefined by the smartphone and the tablet, with future viewing experiences ranging from handheld screens to wall-sized multiscreen environments, all connected to ever more capable networks. A characteristically provocative new report from Rethink Research suggests that sales of the traditional television display are destined to decline, while viewers will be taking to tablets as secondary screens.

“Today we still go to conferences and we are assured by leading executives who should know better, that nothing will ever replace the large sitting room TV screen — well it will and in some places it has.” So writes Philip Hunter, author of the report, titled Requiem for Television. He says these traditionalists are tired of change and just want to get through to their retirement before it matters to much and then let someone else deal with the problems imposed by smartphones, tablets and ubiquitous connectivity.

The report points to “fundamental changes in viewing habits, with a big shift towards content consumption on mobile devices and especially tablets already well under-way.”

“It is this phenomenon that will decimate sales of traditional TVs for secondary viewing and will even lead to a growth in the number of households either without a big screen or which replenishes them less often, reversing a trend that was set in half a century ago.”

It is the traditional television set, rather than the medium, that is threatened. The report suggests: “We expect replenishment of TVs to sink to 50% of their recent levels over the next two years as viewing shifts to tablets.”

For the display industry that means a significant shift towards smaller rather than larger screens. “As a result overall sales of LCD panels are rising, with tablet growth more than offsetting decline in secondary TVs.”

Industry analysts observe a fall in total television sales. Following a fall of 7% in 2012, IHS is now anticipating a further a 5% decline in 2013 to 227 million units. Yet they forecast a return to growth in 2014. “We could not disagree more. Instead there will be an acceleration of the decline to about 170 million by 2017,” suggests Rethink.

The informitv view has long been that the traditional television set will give way to multifunction displays of all dimensions, from handheld to wall-sized screens. We will no longer think of a television as a display with a tuner. Tablet sales are about to overtake those of traditional televisions.

As the Rethink report suggests, if we regard tablets as portable televisions, and think in terms of smart connected screens of all sizes, the volume and value of video viewing displays can be expected to grow substantially.

Smartphone and tablet sales will far outnumber the sales of traditional televisions. IDC forecasts there will be well over two billion shipments of smartphones and tablets in 2017, with over 400 million off them being tablets.

That certainly requires quite a rethink in what we will view as a television or video screen.

Requiem for the Television: Tablets, OTT, faster broadband to make the TV normal unrecognizable is published by Rethink Technology Research.