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The amount of time that adults in China will spend with digital media every day will surpass the time they spend with traditional media for the first time in 2016, eMarketer estimates. Adults in China will spend an average of 3 hours and 5 minutes each day with digital media this year—representing 50.6% of their daily media time. In total, adults in China will spend 6 hours and 6 minutes daily consuming media in 2016, compared with 6 hours last year—a 1.7% rise.
Since its last forecast in June 2015, eMarketer has adjusted its figures downward for the amount of daily time that adults in China spend with digital media. This is because in rural areas, where high-speed internet connectivity can be lacking, TV remains the mainstay and takes up the largest share of traditional media time.
Though slightly slower than previously expected, the shift to digital is well underway and this is also reflected in advertiser behavior. Advertisers in China will devote 58.3% of budgets to digital media in 2016, exceeding the share of time consumers spend with the channel.
As in other markets, (nonvoice) smartphone usage is the key driver for the increase in digital time. In China, smartphones are expected to account for 1 hour and 18 minutes of daily media time in 2016—growth of 9.6% over the previous year. The increase in daily smartphone time is, in part, thanks to a commitment from the Chinese government to expand rural connectivity—up until about two years ago internet access was mainly limited to urban areas.
Alibaba and China Telecom also teamed up to bring low-cost smartphones to these rural areas. In addition, companies like Alibaba and JD.com are increasing focus on expanding ecommerce within rural areas. This rural emphasis is expected to contribute to a second wave of digital growth in the coming years.
Despite the increased connectivity across China and the popularity of video streaming sites such as Youku Tudou, iQiYi and Tencent Video, TV still remains the main source of news and entertainment within rural areas. eMarketer predicts that adults in China will watch 2 hours and 39 minutes of traditional TV daily in 2016—a drop of 1 minute since 2015. TV is also the No. 2 medium after digital by this metric, taking up 43.5% of total media time spent.
eMarketer forecasting analyst Shelleen Shum commented: “The quality of online video content is certainly improving and this has been appealing to the young and urban population where time spent watching traditional TV has shifted toward digital and mobile in particular. However, among the rural population where internet connection speeds may be slower and the population skews toward older age groups, TV still remains a staple.”
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