China Leading the Advance of On-Demand Video

China Leading the Advance of On-Demand Video

84% of Chinese respondents watch some type of video-on-demand programming
75% of respondents watch video-on-demand content at least once per week

The development and emergence of video-on-demand (VOD) programming, where viewers can instantly download or stream content from either a TV package service or an online source, is giving consumers greater control than ever before over what they watch, when they watch, and how they watch. According to a recent global survey from Nielsen, China is at the forefront of this digital trend, with more than 4 out of 5 respondents (84%) saying that they watch some type of VOD programming. This is far greater than the number of global respondents (65%), across 61 countries that said the same.

The Nielsen Global Video-on-Demand Survey polled over 30,000 online respondents in 61 countries to gauge worldwide sentiment about VOD viewing and advertising methods.


While VOD services and content is a trend developing around the world, the study suggests that China is a key region at the forefront of on-demand entertainment. A total of 84% of Chinese respondents said that they watch VOD content, higher than the global average (65%). Even within the Asia Pacific (AP) region where VOD viewing is most prevalent, China’s viewership is a full 10 percentage points above the AP average (74%).

The frequency of VOD viewership also appears to be growing, with widespread adoption now apparent. According to the study, the majority of respondents (75%) watch VOD content at least once a week, and a substantial percentage (40%) watch at least once every day.

In addition to the adoption of VOD, some consumers are also considering online content services as their primary viewing platform for entertainment. Once again the study suggests Chinese consumers are leading the way in this approach, with more than half of respondents (56%) saying they have plans to shift away from their traditional cable or satellite subscription in exchange for online-only services. This is in contrast to the global average, where less than one-third (32%) of respondents indicate a plan to end subscriptions to traditional services.

“Along with rising internet penetration and the advent of the mobile internet, video-on-demand services are developing quickly and offering the consumer more choices than ever in terms of programming and content. This rapidly evolving behavioral change means that it’s essential for publishers, advertisers, and media agencies to keep a close eye on the developing digital landscape in order to connect with consumers and drive growth,” said Yan Xuan, President of Nielsen Greater China. “For advertisers specifically, on-demand content for the consumer can translate to on-target engagement for brands if executed effectively.”


While Chinese consumers are increasingly turning to VOD to watch the programming they want, when they want, there is still a strong preference for the types of devices on which content is viewed. More than two-thirds (68%) of Chinese respondents say that watching content on an online or mobile device is not as good as when viewed on a larger screen like a TV.

In fact, despite the emergence and increasing penetration of mobile devices throughout China, more respondents state that they watch VOD content on a computer (60%) or Smart TV (54%) than a mobile device like a tablet (54%) or mobile phone (42%). Consumers are also multitasking while they watch VOD content, with 61% saying they like to browse and interact on social media while watching.


As for the specific types of programming that consumers are watching, movies make up the majority of the content, with 81% of consumers saying they view movies as VOD content, and half (50%) of respondents saying it is their most viewed type of content. Somewhat surprisingly, standard TV programs are viewed by less than half (49%) of respondents.

Despite the continued creation of content, many consumers still wish there was more variety and choices on the VOD services that they used. More than three-fourths (77%) of respondents said they would like to have a wider selection of programming and content. So, although consumers are increasingly turning to VOD services, there is still a significant opportunity to attract viewers by offering a greater selection of high quality content.


A greater selection of programming also means more competing advertising for audiences. Consumers are inundated with an overwhelmingly high number of ads on a daily basis, and they’re looking to cut through the clutter. The majority (59%) of Chinese respondents who watch VOD say online ads displayed before, during or after VOD programming are distracting and three-fifths (60%) wish they could block all ads.

The good news for advertisers is that many consumers see value in ads, but the value proposition must be right. More than two-thirds (67%) of viewers actually say that they wish they could see only ads for products that interest them. In this it seems that advertisers have an opportunity to reach their target consumer more precisely, as 64% of respondents feel that the majority of the ads they see are for products that they have no interest in.

Additionally, more than half (55%) of respondents say they don’t mind being the target of advertising if it means that they are able to view free content.

“In an increasingly crowded digital environment, relevant ads and brand experiences are essential for engaging with target consumers,” said Yan Xuan. “Just as technology has made it easier for consumers to control the content that they watch, advertisers now also have the opportunity to reach and resonate with consumers better than ever by optimizing digital advertising efficiency. The advertisers with the strongest brand and sales impact will naturally be those that effectively connect targeted messages about products and services with the consumers who want them.”