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TV Viewing Shifts to Digital in China

Nearly 440 million people in China watch digital video

January 29, 2015 | Media Buying | Video | Media & Entertainment

In China, as in other markets around the world, internet time appears to be surpassing TV time, as more and more people go online and mobile becomes a majority activity, according to a new eMarketer report, “China Time Spent with Media: Digital Activities Fuel a Multiscreen Market.”

Share of Time Spent Online According to Internet Users in Select Countries, by Activity/Site Type, July 2014 (% of total)

Digital video is a key driver of the shift. Internet use in China skews sharply toward entertainment, and video is a major part of the mix. TV content viewed via digital screens is widely popular, in part because restrictions on linear TV content have allowed digital publishers leeway to offer more attractive content. But that seems likely to change under new regulations that go into effect later this year.

According to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), China’s digital online viewership as of Q2 2014 had reached 439 million users. It’s a young population: 80.1% of them in the 10-to-39-year-old range. Fully one-third are ages 10 to 19. Digital video usage reflects the fact that, compared with internet users in other countries, consumers in China are far more likely to use the internet for entertainment purposes.

A July 2014 A.T. Kearney survey found that internet users in China devoted 35% of their time online to “entertainment,” a far larger percentage than internet users elsewhere.

Digital video penetration rates are high among internet users in China. In July 2014, TNS’s “Connected Life” study reported that nearly nine in 10 internet users in China were digital video viewers.

Share of Time Spent Watching Digital Video in China, PC* vs. Mobile**, Jan 2014-Aug 2014 (% of total)

Meanwhile, along with the shift to digital video, there is a parallel shift to mobile video from desktop/laptop viewing. Data from iResearch Consulting Group showed the rapid increase in mobile as a share of total digital video viewing. The change, measured over the course of just eight months, was stark. Given the short span of the data, it’s possible that the measure is a data anomaly, but the trend toward mobile suggests not.

A striking aspect of mobile video viewing in China is the prevalence of viewing long-form TV content. The Interactive Advertising Bureau found that 71% of smartphone/tablet owners in China watched full-length TV episodes at least weekly on their handsets, and 27% did this once a day or more—far more than their counterparts in the US.

Get more on this topic with the full eMarketer report, “China Time Spent with Media: Digital Activities Fuel a Multiscreen Market.”

This report answers these key questions:

  • How much time do consumers in China spend with major media?
  • How are mobile devices playing in the media mix?
  • How common is simultaneous media usage?

eMarketer releases over 200 analyst reports per year, which are only available to eMarketer corporate subscribers.

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