An international survey from Accenture suggests a dramatic drop in the proportion of viewers who prefer to watch television shows on television sets. The number has apparently fallen from 52% to 23% in a year. Yet that bears little relation to actual viewing, at least for now.

Accenture says the results reveal that laptops and desktops have overtaken televisions as the preferred screens for watching television shows.

This was based on a multiple-choice online survey that asked which types of devices people preferred to use, with options including laptop and desktop personal computers, smartphones, tablets, TV screens, and games consoles.

23% of respondents put television as their preferred screen for watching television shows in 2017, compared to 52% in 2016 and 65% in 2014.

42% said that laptop or desktop computers were their preferred screens for viewing television shows in 2017. The number was 32% in 2016.

13% said that they prefer watching television shows on their smartphone, compared to 10% a year previously.

Accenture Digital Consumer Survey 2017. Preferred screen for viewing television shows 2014-2017.

In the United States, the number preferring to view television shows on television sets fell from 59% to 25%. In the United Kingdom it fell from 56% to 25%. In India it dropped from 47% to 10%.

“The dominance of the TV set as the undisputed go-to entertainment device is ending,” said Gavin Mann, who runs the Accenture broadcast business. “While a great number of people still watch plenty of TV shows on TV sets, our research uncovers a rapid acceleration in their preference for viewing on other digital devices — especially laptops, desktops and smartphones.”

“Driving this rapid shift in consumer preferences is the growing convenience, availability and quality of more personalised and compelling content on laptop and desktop personal computers and smartphones,” he added. “The massive and accelerating push by communications and media companies to provide ubiquitous content — TV everywhere including over-the-top — has empowered consumers to access high-quality content across multiple devices.”

Note that the survey refers to the stated preferred screen for viewing television shows. It is also based on an online only self-reported survey. –This does not correspond to actual viewing behaviour, or indeed other research into television viewing.

For instance, the Nielsen Total Audience Report for the last quarter of 2016 put average viewing in the United States of all video on a personal computer at 1 hour 48 minutes a week. In comparison, average live and time-shifted viewing on television was 30 hours and 55 minutes a week. Those aged 12-17 watched less television, as they always have, at 13 hours 54 minutes a week, compared to 34 minutes a week of video on a personal computer.

It is difficult to reconcile the survey results with the reality of how people actually watch television programmes, which is still overwhelmingly on a television.

Nevertheless, the Accenture survey suggests a clear preference, at least among those that responded online, for a more personal, individual viewing experience.

The Accenture Digital Consumer Survey 2017 covered 26,000 consumers in 26 countries. The online survey was conducted between October and November 2016. The sample in each country was representative of the online population, involving respondents over 14 years old.