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More Viewers in China Switch on Smart TVs

Many choose to go online via connected televisions

April 19, 2017 | Media

Smart TVs, which are televisions with integrated web connectivity, continue to see healthy growth in China. In addition to rising smart TV sales in the country, a growing percentage of consumers appear to using the device as a tool for accessing the internet.

According to a March 2017 forecast released by iiMedia Research, sales of smart TVs in China are expected to reach more than 46 million units in 2017, representing an increase of 13.8%. While that growth rate is a lower than 2016’s high of 20%, iiMedia estimates suggest the market will continue to grow at double-digit rates through at least 2018.

Smart TV Sales in China, 2014-2018 (millions of units and % change)

This strong demand for smart TVs is also backed up by consumer research. According to a survey from the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), which examined the devices used by internet users in China to access the web, connected TV usage for this purpose is rising quickly. The proportion of respondents using such TVs for internet access grew 7 percentage points between 2015 and 2016, from 17.9% to 25.0%. That was the largest increase of any device in the study—including smartphones.

Devices Used by Internet Users in China to Access the Internet, 2015 & 2016 (% of respondents)

Given the demand, will smart TVs be able to continue their upward growth curve in China? Market signals appear to be mixed. One reason for optimism is the continued product innovation happening in the category, with manufacturers like Xiaomi releasing new smart TV functionality like AI-based speech recognition.

On the other hand, recent reports of problems with smart TV privacy settings should be cause for concern. News came to light in February that some smart TV manufacturers were installing tracking software on their devices that monitored the viewing habits of consumers, and then selling their data to advertisers. While the scandal’s primary fallout has been limited to the US consumer market, it’s possible these same privacy worries could cause blowback in China in the near future.

Jeremy Kressmann

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