Time Spent with Online Video Surpasses TV Viewing in China - eMarketer

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Time Spent with Online Video Surpasses TV Viewing in China

Internet users in China watch video online more than any single broadcast medium

December 6, 2011

The ad market in China is growing in importance, but just like in the US, different geographies can play a role in how brand messaging is received. Local differences in media usage become even more important in areas where consumers don’t have a long history of watching video content in general, let alone ads.

eMarketer predicts total ad spending in China to hit $45.9 billion next year, an increase of 19.8% over 2011. TV continues to receive the lion’s share of ad spending, but according to a new study by Starcom MediaVest Group, time spent with traditional TV is taking a back seat to video content viewed on computers.

Total Media Ad Spending in China, 2010-2015 (billions and % change)

Starcom MediaVest Group’s Yangtze study, one of the first media usage studies of this scale conducted in lower-tiered cities in China, found that internet users in Tier 3, 4 and 5 cities and towns spent more time per day online than watching TV. Tiers were developed by marketers in order to classify the cities and regions throughout the vast country, ranking from megacities like Shanghai and Beijing (Tier 1) to cities of 3 million or fewer (Tiers 3, 4 and 5).

Time Spent with Media in China, by City Tier, 2011 (hours per day)

The study encompassed users ages 13 to 45, and a closer look at the demographics reveals that internet users aged 19 to 30 spent almost twice as much time online as watching TV.

Users are also turning to the web for video entertainment. When breaking out time spent with video by source, video watched on computers was the most popular overall, and accounted for the most time spent by users in all of the tiers except for those in Tier 1 cities. There, mobile devices edged computers out by almost a tenth of an hour, or roughly 6 minutes per day.

Time Spent Watching TV and Video in China, by City Tier , 2011 (hours yesterday)

Expanding choices of entertainment have come hand in hand with more exposure to ads, but in many cases consumers do not have the basic media literacy to recognize what an ad is and what it is trying to do.

For example, a joint study by Millward Brown and Warc found that a conceptual video ad that tested well among Tier 1 and 2 cities failed to register with consumers in lower-tiered cities in China. They missed the message of the ad and what it was selling; as a result, they were left confused by the ad’s narrative.

How do marketers overcome this lack of ad literacy in China? The Millward Brown and Warc white paper recommends taking marketing back to the basics: Avoid conceptual themes and feature products prominently throughout.

Additionally, the Starcom data suggests that digital media users in China spend more time watching video on their mobile devices and computers than their TV. These users, true first adopters among their peers, are quickly developing media and ad literacy. Previous research shows that internet users in China are willing to click on interesting branded content. They can be an invaluable base for building brand recognition in Tier 3 cities and beyond in China.

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Check out today’s other article, “Relevance Key to Increasing Display Ad Dwell Rate.”


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