Online video in China is a mostly a desktop play (for now)

August 31st, 2015 by · Leave a Comment

This article was authored by John Tanner, and was originally posted on

ITEM: Internet users in China watch an awful lot of online video – but they’re more likely to be watching on PCs and laptops than smartphones. At least for now.

Recent research from iResearch Consulting Group found that people using PCs at home or at work spend over 33% of their online time watching videos (as of June 2015), reports eMarketer.

Video is the single biggest category of online activity percentage-wise. The next biggest categories were social media (10.6%) and search engines (10%) – unless you count “other”, which accounted for the 26.8% of activities that don’t include video, social media, search, e-commerce, gaming, financial services and news.

The report doesn’t cover mobile, but eMarketer notes that according to 2014 data from China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), over 32.4% of viewers watched digital video for 2+ hours a day on PCs, vs. just 16.8% who watched via mobile.

That’s despite eMarketer’s forecast that over half of media consumption in China this year will happen online, and the vast majority of that will happen on mobile devices (although that forecast includes all media, not just video).

If nothing else, the rise of 4G and smartphones has triggered a wave of news apps in China that feature video clips, according to China Daily:

Leading online media groups and Internet companies, such as and Tencent, have been rolling out more video clips on their apps in a move to attract customers. "There might be cannibalization, but these groups have little to lose," Shann Biglione, head of Strategy with Zenith Optimedia China, a marketing communication company, said.

"Ultimately, what the consumer wants it will get. So, it's a lot safer to experiment and stay at the forefront. If you don't do it, someone else will, so there is more danger in not embracing it."

Meanwhile, it’s not just snackable video clips that will be driving online video. A couple of months ago, Reuters reported that Alibaba plans to launch TBO (Tmall Box Office), a Netflix-style video streaming service in China.

It’s a bold move in what is already a competitive market that includes players like Tencent, Baidu,, LeTV and Youku Tudou (in which Alibaba holds a 16% stake), although unlike most existing players, most of TBO’s content will be behind a paywall, either as a subscription or a la carte.

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