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Digital video viewing in Western Europe is becoming increasingly common. However, in the four continental EU-5 nations—France, Germany, Italy and Spain—there’s a clear split in consumption habits, according to a new eMarketer report, “Western Europe Digital Video Trends: North-South Divide Separates the Most Digital from the Most Valuable.”
The first differentiation between North and South when it comes to digital video consumption relates to the influence of traditional broadcast TV. In France and Germany, it has a far bigger foothold in terms of consumer attention and, accordingly, the TV set is still seen as the key video viewing device—even for digital video. In Italy and Spain, however, although broadcast TV still accounts for a great deal of media consumption time, people are extending their video viewing habits to digital platforms. This has led to greater overall consumption of digital video content in these countries.
October 2014 research by the UK’s Office of Communications found that internet users in Spain and Italy were more likely to access TV programs digitally compared with those in France and Germany. The gap was even larger when it came to films and movies accessed this way—70% did so in Spain and 72% in Italy, compared with about half in both Germany and France.
Meanwhile, how people are watching this content—that is, on what devices—highlights the pervasiveness of mobile methods, and particularly smartphones, in the South. While tablets were the preferred mobile device for video content consumption among respondents across the EU-5, smartphones were used a great deal more in the South for doing so—by 68% of mobile phone or smartphone users in Italy and 55% of those in Spain.
The other way video consumption habits in Western Europe differ between North and South relates to the type of content viewers are watching and, importantly, whether they’re paying for it. This is partly linked to screen preference as well as economic factors.
In France and Germany, there’s a much greater willingness to pay for professionally produced digital video content and then view it on a TV set. In Italy and Spain, greater limitations on disposable income are feeding, and perhaps perpetuating, a preference to consume free content via mobile. There is something of a catch-22 situation at play in the subscription video-on-demand (VOD) industry in Southern Europe. Service providers may be reluctant to launch in countries where the viewer base is unwilling to pay for their services, yet a scarcity of VOD offerings is likely to lead to even more prevalent mobile-first behaviors (and thus free content consumption).
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