The Global Media Intelligence Report is a concise, detailed compilation of data and insights about internet users’ traditional and digital media usage in 43 key markets worldwide. With very few exceptions, this 2021 edition covers the same range of metrics we featured in 2020, and the consistency of GWI’s methodology enables us to offer precise year-over-year (YoY) comparisons.
For the second year in a row, the pandemic was a major influence on media consumption and device ownership. Of course, many internet users had already experienced the types of restrictions imposed during the first phase of the health crisis in 2020, so we might have expected little change in their media behavior in 2021. That was true in some cases—but in others, a second year of the pandemic seems to have prompted significant shifts. Also, the pandemic affected several countries more intensely, or differently, this year than last.
That said, the data does reveal several overarching patterns.
These are the key trends shaping the media landscape this year:
Ownership of PCs and tablets continued to fall in most countries.
The rise of home working and home schooling during 2020 bolstered penetration of larger-screen devices. But the longer-term trend of declining ownership is beginning to reassert itself.
- Penetration of desktops, laptops, and tablets declined. Between H1 2020 and H1 2021, penetration of desktops, laptops, and tablets fell in virtually every market. Admittedly, several countries in Asia-Pacific—including China, Japan, and Thailand—saw modest gains for both devices. PC ownership also rose in India, UAE, and Vietnam. These are all countries where PCs and tablets entered the mainstream after mobile phones, and remain aspirational, particularly in middle- and higher-income households.
- Smartphone penetration remains stable. Rates of smartphone ownership were much the same as in 2020 and almost uniformly high. That’s no surprise since smartphones were already the dominant digital device for the vast majority of internet users worldwide.
Smart TVs are gaining ground as high-quality in-home viewing becomes a must-have.
- In all but a handful of countries, smart TV ownership rose by several percentage points YoY. In many cases, that lifted penetration above 50% for the first time.
- Japan was the most striking outlier; just 9.0% of internet users there owned a smart TV this year. But that share had grown from 7.5% in 2020—a significant proportional increase.
Takeup of other smart products has accelerated.
- In 2020, a small minority of internet users polled owned a smartwatch, but momentum was building especially among early adopters, including males and affluent respondents. In 2021, that trend continued, with penetration climbing significantly in most countries. The smartwatch’s less expensive cousin, the smart wristband, also benefited from greater interest in fitness and wellness during the pandemic.
- In addition, more internet users owned smart home devices, such as household security systems and energy consumption monitors. Penetration typically languished below 15% but was markedly greater in a few cases. In the UK, for example, one in four internet users owned at least one smart home product in H1 2021. In the US, that share was 20.5%.
In many countries, digital video has overtaken broadcast TV.
- As in prior years, TV still reaches more consumers worldwide than any other content-based medium. Yet the share of internet users watching digital video now surpasses the share watching live TV in many parts of the world. (It’s worth noting that GWI included YouTube in its list of tracked video services for the first time this year, and the popularity of that platform will have boosted figures for digital video viewing in virtually all nations surveyed.)
- More interesting, in some respects, are the substantial increases in penetration of subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) worldwide. Again, this is largely predictable, given that lockdowns fueled digital video viewing across the board. SVOD usage was already rising in most countries in 2020 but enjoyed another big boost in 2021—as if many internet users who resisted the appeal of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other providers last year finally gave in to temptation as the pandemic continued.
- In almost half of the countries surveyed this year, more than 75% of internet users had watched SVOD in the prior month. That group included Argentina, China, India, Mexico, Poland, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa, as well as the UK and the US. By contrast, only 29.2% of internet users in Russia had recently watched video via a subscription service.
The digital audio market is evolving, but radio hasn’t gone away.
- The reach of broadcast radio shrank in many markets this year, but time spent with radio had hardly changed since 2020 or shifted by just a few minutes per day.
- Fewer internet users listened to online radio, audiobooks, and other digital audio content, as well. This decline may be partly due to GWI removing Google Play Music from the list of audio services tracked because the service was discontinued. Yet music streaming occupied more time this year in almost every country. In addition, internet users in most nations devoted at least 30 minutes each day to podcasts—a new metric in the 2021 survey.
Notwithstanding these global trends, many details vary across the 42 countries monitored by GWI, especially as pandemic-related factors have added another layer of complexity to individual markets. Some examples:
Different regions prioritize different devices—but there are national exceptions.
- As in prior years, time spent with PCs and tablets exceeded time spent with mobile devices in most European markets and the US.
- Conversely, mobile activities dominated daily media time across much of Asia-Pacific, and in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and UAE. Yet several Asia-Pacific countries aligned with Europe in this respect; in Australia, Japan, and South Korea, for example, larger screens still claimed more time each day.
Voice assistants fulfil multiple functions, but these vary from country to country.
- GWI first asked in 2019 about respondents’ use of voice-activated phone apps like Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, and smart speakers, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. In 2021, researchers probed further, asking whether respondents had used a voice assistant in the prior week (not the prior month, as in previous surveys) to find information or to carry out an action, such as playing a song. In most countries, searching for information was more common. But in several cases—including Brazil, Greece, Malaysia, the Philippines, and South Korea—more internet users had used voice tools to complete an action. Naturally, some respondents did both.
Social media is a massive draw, but some users spend longer than others.
- In most Latin American and many Asia-Pacific countries, internet users spent more than 3 hours each day on social networking and messaging. That was also true in Egypt, South Africa, and Turkey.
- Across most of Europe, though, social media occupied fewer than 2 hours per day.
This is a small sample of the granular information the report provides. The wealth of detail about the media behavior of digital citizens in 43 key markets worldwide should be invaluable to advertisers and marketers as they develop and execute strategies and campaigns in the year to come.
Welcome to eMarketer’s Global Media Intelligence Report 2021.
About This Report
The 11th edition of the Global Media Intelligence Report is a continued partnership with Publicis Media-Starcom and collaboration with GWI, formerly GlobalWebIndex—a primary research provider to Publicis Media-Starcom and a valued partner of eMarketer. This close collaboration ensures consistent representation of topics, demographic groups, and time frames from the 2020 edition.