Mobile World Congress 2014

In a multi-screen home, TV remains king

While the rise of smartphones and tablets is changing the way people are watching television, the strength of the traditional TV set in the living room remains resilient even among the "millennial" generation, the CEO of Viacom's international branch has told CNBC.

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Robert Bakish, the CEO of Viacom International Media Networks, spoke to CNBC ahead of a keynote speech on "The Battle for the Multi-Screen Home."

He explained that research by Viacom - who spoke to 60,000 millennials (people born between the early 1980s and early 2000s) in 32 countries  - and found that 90 percent still watched linear television regularly, although 50 percent watched TV over the Internet.

(Read more: To iPad or not to iPad: A tablet buyer's guide)

"If you look at the history of entertainment consumption, linear television plays a very vital part," he told CNBC, emphasizing that the millennials - some of the most advanced consumers in the market - were still attached to their television sets.

Bakish's comments come as the rise of Netflix makes many believe the traditional television set, as well as the pay TV package, is in decline. Leslie Moonves, CEO of CBS Corporation, recently argued to the contrary, telling The New Yorker in an interview: "For twenty years I've been hearing that network television is dead. We're thriving like never before."

Bakish agreed, "Pay TV still represents great value in terms of the amount of content you get every day, these days in HD, these days available on tablet," he explained, stressing the diversity that can be on offer now. "TV remains alive and well, but the great thing is that we have other platforms."

(Read more: Why it's about tablets and not smartphone growth)

Bakish argued that content providers like Viacom, which distributes MTV, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central, needed to remain adaptive to changing consumer habits, and that this was an opportunity for such companies, not a moment for a panic.

Paolo Pescator, the director for apps and media at CCS Insight, said, "Our research shows that the average number of connected devices in the household continues to increase. It's somewhere in the region of eight right now, and no doubt it will continue to grow even more.

"People want to use the same apps they're using on their smartphones on their tablets and other devices. We are truly seeing the 'applification' of content."

People have heightened expectations and are doing more on multiple devices. Viacom's research showed that two in three tablet owners regularly use them to view television content, as well as "second-screening" becoming an important aspect of people's viewing habits.

While many may still use their traditional TV sets, on average 40 percent of milliennials engage in TV-related activity on social media while watching the program. In China, that figure was 70 percent. 

And younger generations pose a further growth area. Viacom said that just under 30 percent of 9-14 year-olds own a smartphone, and 15 percent have a tablet. 40 percent have watched television content not on a TV set.

Mobile companies are responding to this, with Samsung announcing late last year that they were offering a software development kit to would make it easier for mobile phone users to pair up their devices with Samsung Smart TV.

Bakish described the way consumers watched the most recent MTV EMA Awards in Amsterdam last 2013.

"You really see the power of this every screen, where that particular show had something like 55 million linear TV viewers but also had voting activity of about 323 million votes," he said. "If you look at where that traffic is coming from, approximately 16 percent of those interactions were on mobile, but 50 percent of the final round of voting was via mobile.

"We've dubbed it the era of living media."

John Chambers, the CEO of CISCO, said at the talk on the multi-screen home that companies had to adjust to a changing realm.

"If we don't transition ourselves, we will get lost behind," he said. "The point that we've always made is that if you miss market transitions, no matter how powerful you are, you will get left behind. 

—By CNBC'sKiran Moodley. Follow him on Twitter @kirancmoodley