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In early 2015, most of Western Europe finally seemed to be emerging from the painful economic downturn that began in 2008, but that recovery was "fragile," according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The risks to European stability were heightened sharply in early July, when voters in cash-strapped Greece overwhelmingly backed their government's refusal of the latest bailout deal offered by the European Central Bank and the IMF. The "no" vote plunged the region into uncertainty and spooked stock markets around the world.
The fifth annual edition of eMarketer's Global Media Intelligence Report, produced in conjunction with Starcom Mediavest Group, analyzes recent developments in Western Europe. It includes demographic and media usage information on audiences in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.
While the eurozone's road to full economic prosperity looks somewhat rocky, Western Europe's digital transformation continues apace. eMarketer estimates that 307.5 million residents will go online at least once per month this year—a 5.4 million gain over 2014. In several countries—including Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland—more than 84% of the population will regularly access the internet; across the entire region, the average will be 73.6%. Because Western Europe is one of the world's more mature digital societies, annual internet user growth will fall below 2% this year and decline further throughout the forecast period.
Similarly, Western Europe has embraced advanced mobile devices. It has the second-largest smartphone user base worldwide—Asia-Pacific ranks first by this measure—and 218.0 million people in the region are predicted to use an advanced handset regularly in 2015. For the first time, more than half of the region's total population will be smartphone users. Moreover, this market is still expanding by double digits each year and will do so until 2017, eMarketer predicts.
Tablets have also entered the mainstream, due to a 29.1% surge in the number of users in Western Europe last year. Tablet penetration among internet users across the region will average 53.2% in 2015. In three Western European nations—the Netherlands, Norway and the UK—more than 60% of web users will also use a tablet. In fact, eMarketer estimates that the UK will register the highest tablet penetration globally in 2015, at 63.8%. Regional growth in user numbers will slow to an estimated 11.2% this year, however, and decline to single digits for the remainder of the forecast period.
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