China Insights

Smart TV on the rise in China; video-on-demand viewing soars

Martin Guo

Editor-in-Chief, Kantar China Insights

TV & Movie 15.06.2017 / 11:55

Big screen cover full

Chinese Family Big Screen TV Viewing Report 2017 shows that in 35 major cities, nearly 23% TV audiences have at least one Smart TV or a Smart TV top-box.

CSM, CTR and Smart TV viewing data company recently jointly published “Chinese Family Big Screen TV Viewing Report 2017”. The report covers 35 major Chinese cities and analyses the demographic feature and TV viewing patterns of TV audiences through traditional TV and through Smart TV or Smart TV set-top boxes (hereinafter “Smart TV audiences”) .

CSM and CTR are both Kantar Media joint venture companies with China International TV Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary under China Central TV Station.

In the fourth quarter of 2016, in 35 major Chinese cities*, 22.85% TV audiences have at least one Smart TV or a Smart TV set-box (excluding those for cable TV and IPTVs) at home, according to CSM. Among the Smart TV audiences, 52% are men and 25-34 age group is the single largest age group (28%).

Smart TV Population

Video on demand takes off in 2016

The length of watching video on demand (including time-shift play back) through all TV channels didn’t change much from 2012 till 2015. But it increased significantly in 2016: the daily average on Smart TV platforms jumped to 25.8 minutes, nearly 40% higher than in 2015.

VOD Time Length Soars In 2016 

The trend was also clear within 2016 as the length grew every quarter. In the first quarter, it was 22.82 minutes, while it grew to 29.40 minutes in the fourth quarter.

VOD Time Length By Quarters

About half of the VOD viewing happened between 6 pm and mid-night. In Q4 2016, it was 15.43 minutes.

If we concentrate on only Smart TV audiences, we can see that they already spend more time on VOD than live TV. In Q4, 2016, daily VOD viewing time was 215.41 minutes, about 1.3 times that of live TV viewing.  

Live Vs VOD On Smart TV

In terms of viewing time, night is still prime time. The viewing curve is not much different that of traditional TV: VOD and live TV viewing both have two peaks within a day. The peak is between 7 pm and 10 pm, when more than 20% Smart TV devices were turned on. The second highest peak was between 12 pm and 1 pm when 15% devices were turned on.

The peak of VOD TV viewing in Q4 was about 8:20 pm while that of live TV viewing through Smart TV devices happened about 8:43 pm.


Curve Of Peak Time


Attitude research of Smart TV audiences

CTR carried out a deep-dive research on Smart TV audiences’ usage and attitudes from March till April through an online survey across 35 Chinese cities and two focus group discussions**.

The research found that Smart TV families on average own 1.4 Smart TV devices while a small number of them own several Smart TV devices (eg. owning more than one Smart TV set-top boxes or both Smart TV and Smart TV boxes). The reason is that they wanted to enlarge their video resources and upgrade to newest devices.

Average Units Per Home 

“Rich video content” (84.5%) and “control my time” (76.7%) are the two main reasons for people to buy Smart TV devices, followed by “less or no ad” (35.2%), “more comfortable to watch on big screens” (26.1%) and “watch with other family members” (19.0%).

Smart Reasons 

The research also found four major behaviour changes brought by the arrival of Smart TV devices:

1. More time spent on watching VOD on Smart TV platforms, while less time spent on watching live TV or watching TV dramas through computers;

2. Frequency of watching VOD on Smart TV platforms is higher, while that for watching live TV or watching TV dramas through computers becomes lower;

3. Not much change in preferred types for TV programmes, but will watch more programmes;

4. In fact, programmes through Smart TV platforms are less likely watched together by family members. It is more likely they are watched by only one member of a family.

The research also surveyed Smart TV audiences’ attitudes towards ads. Their engagement with ads appearing on Smart TV platforms is lower than that on live traditional TV, but higher than Internet ads.

Smart Ad Works


While watching video-on-demand programmes, 59% of audiences can watch a short period of ads, but not too long. It depends on whether they are interested in the ads. Another 22% can watch from beginning to end, while 19% will do other things as soon as an ad pops up.

The most impressive ad format on Smart TV platforms is open screen ad, because it is full-screen, overwhelming and appears frequently.

Open Screen Is The King

Source: CSM, CTR

Editor's notes

* 35 cities include 31 provincial capitals and four non-capital big Chinese cities (Qingdao, Xiamen, Dalian and Shenzhen).

** The online survey collected answers from 2,194 real-ID registered panellists. There were two focus group discussions with eight panellists in each.

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