In China, Adults Spend Half Their Media Time Online

This year, for the first time, adults in China will spend over half of their daily media time on the internet. This is largely a result of increased government efforts to transform and develop internet infrastructure in the more rural parts of the country.

Digital time spent, which includes all desktop/laptop internet activities and all mobile activities regardless of whether they are internet-connected, is also increasing. In 2019, adults will spend 3 hours, 54 minutes (3:54) with digital daily and 2:44 with traditional media. The total time spent among adults in China represents a 12-minute increase from our figure last year—significantly stronger growth than in advanced economies like the US and UK.

Time spent with digital in China has surpassed that of traditional media since 2016, with the gap widening even further this year. This growth will likely continue in the next several years.

In the last half-decade, the government in China has prioritized improving the country’s telecom infrastructure in lower-tier cities and the countryside, helping boost internet adoption in regions that have historically been underdeveloped. Lower-tier cities in China are those that have smaller populations, are more remote and are less economically powerful.

“Currently, lower-tier cities and the rural areas of China represent the biggest untapped opportunity for brands and marketers—and building out the telecom infrastructure is only the beginning,” said Man-Chung Cheung, eMarketer research analyst. “More education and nurturing of consumer habits will help to realize the internet’s full potential in these parts of the country.”

Through the end of our forecast period ending in 2021, consumption of traditional TV and print will both drop, and time spent with radio will remain stagnant. With digital, most of the growth in time spent is due to online activity (particularly via smartphones), which will increase by double digits through 2020. The opportunity presented in this category to marketers is enormous. Despite the impressive increases, internet usage still has room for growth, as 31.9% of consumers in China have yet to come online.

“The double-digit minute increase in media time spent is still relatively subdued—dragged down by below-average internet user penetration among the population—so just adding more internet users will grow media time spent significantly,” Cheung said.

For more statistics on internet user penetration by city tier and analysis on how China's ad spending corresponds with media time spent, read our new report.

And to get a global view of media consumption, check out our latest forecasts for the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea and India.