The Global Media Intelligence Report 2020

A Reference Guide to Consumers’ Media Use in 42 Countries

Executive Summary

The Global Media Intelligence Report is a concise yet detailed compilation of data and insights about internet users’ traditional and digital media usage in 42 key markets worldwide. This 2020 edition covers the same range of metrics we featured in 2019, and the consistency of GlobalWebIndex’s methodology enables us to offer precise year-over-year comparisons; these provide vital indicators of exactly where and how quickly changes are happening, and where behaviors haven’t altered much.

In fact, one of the more surprising findings this year was that many aspects of device ownership and engagement with specific media changed little, or not at all, in a number of countries. We might have expected the coronavirus pandemic to radically alter media behavior, but that didn’t happen for the most part. Time spent with TV, digital video, and music streaming did rise among most populations polled, but these increases were often incremental, and not traceable entirely to periods of national lockdown, for example.

Here are the key trends shaping the media landscape this year:

Ownership of PCs and/or tablets continues to fall in many countries. Smartphones are already the primary—and sometimes only—digital device that many internet users worldwide owned. As advanced handsets continue to consolidate that position, larger-screen devices may appear destined for a secondary role.

Between H1 2019 and H1 2020, ownership of desktops, laptops, and/or tablets declined most sharply in developing markets, including Brazil, China, Egypt, and India—all countries where the focus has long been on mobile devices and services. But the same trend appeared to a lesser degree in several other countries too, including France, Russia, Sweden, and the US.

That said, PC and tablet penetration remains consistently higher among older, affluent internet users—a top target audience for many marketers. In addition, many consumers have spent more time with PCs since the pandemic began. In the US, for example, 43% of internet users polled by GlobalWebIndex in May 2020 said their laptop time had increased, and 24% were spending more time on a desktop.

As a result, advertising on desktops and laptops will still contribute significantly to digital ad spending overall. And digital ad spending—unlike outlays on traditional media—is set to climb this year despite the massive market impact of the pandemic. eMarketer estimates that digital ad spending worldwide will rise 2.4% this year to $332.84 billion and make up 54.1% of total media ad spending.

Digital video continues to close the gap with broadcast TV. As in 2019, TV still reaches more consumers worldwide than any other content-based medium. But in many parts of the world, the share of internet users watching digital video, either free or paid-for, now equals or surpasses the share watching live TV. In particular, GlobalWebIndex found sizable increases in penetration of subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) in many markets YoY. Those were likely due in part to expanded offerings from Netflix and other providers, but SVOD also seems to have benefited from consumers’ desire for quality entertainment while stuck at home.

For example, 86.2% of internet users in Brazil polled in H1 2020 had watched SVOD content in the prior month—not far behind the 89.8% who had watched live TV, and effectively double the 43.2% who had watched a TV channel’s catch-up service. In Mexico, more than 90% had watched SVOD, while 88.9% had watched live TV. In New Zealand and the US, the percentages of respondents viewing live TV and SVOD were almost the same.

Such figures confirm eMarketer’s forecast for steady growth in subscription video viewing. For instance, we expect the number of people in Western Europe who use subscription over-the-top (OTT) video services to jump 15.6% this year—with even greater gains in the EU-4 countries. In North America, Netflix alone is forecast to have more than 185 million users in 2020.

While digital video viewing is advancing by leaps and bounds, many digital devices and services have seen only modest takeup, and that may be stalling. In 2019, the vast majority of internet users polled didn’t own a smartwatch or a smart wristband; this year, the picture is much the same. Similarly, penetration of virtual reality (VR) headsets was below 5% of survey respondents in all but a handful of countries; those included India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

To date, smart home devices, such as household energy monitors or security systems linked to mobile apps, aren’t a priority purchase either—though increased remote working may change that dynamic if the pandemic continues. In many countries, penetration of smart home devices remained well below 10% this year. Some posted significant gains—21.0% of internet users polled in the UK had a smart home product in H1 2020, for example—yet ownership dropped in several cases. It seems that smart home devices may never reach the mainstream in many markets, and ownership may be concentrated largely among affluent individuals.

The pandemic is likely accelerating the decline of print media. While print audiences aren’t shrinking everywhere, print newspapers and magazines did register many of the most dramatic decreases in media engagement this year. In South Africa, for example, the share of internet users who’d read a print newspaper in the month prior to polling fell almost 10 percentage points, and magazine penetration plunged 17 percentage points. Significant drops were also seen in Colombia, Hong Kong, and Romania, among others.

There’s no doubt that the pandemic is further complicating an already complex picture. And while penetration of many digital devices and behaviors is stabilizing around the world, many details vary across the 42 markets monitored by GlobalWebIndex. Some examples:

  • Time spent with social media is rising in many countries—but not all. One might have expected major increases across the board, as consumers used social platforms to communicate with friends, family, and colleagues during enforced stay-at-home orders arising from the pandemic. Social time did climb YoY in several countries, including France, Portugal, and India. But these increases were often small. Moreover, time spent with social actually fell in Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, and the Philippines, to name a few.
  • In many advanced economies—including Germany, Sweden, Spain, the UK, and the US—time spent with PCs and tablets still exceeds time spent with mobile devices, and by a large margin. By contrast, mobile activity dominates in many Asia-Pacific nations, including China, Malaysia, and Thailand. Yet several countries in Asia-Pacific buck that trend; in Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore, PC time remains greater than mobile time.
  • Smart TVs are well established in most countries with robust, reliable communications networks. More than four in 10 internet users polled in North America, Latin America, and Western Europe said they owned a smart TV in H1 2020, though France was below that threshold. Respondents in Africa, Asia-Pacific, and the Middle East were less likely to have such a device, however; in Japan, a mere 7.5% owned one this year.
  • Voice search is solidly popular in some countries, but less so in others. GlobalWebIndex first asked survey respondents in 2019 about their use of voice-activated smartphone assistants like Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, and smart speakers, such as the Google Home and Amazon Echo. This year, several countries—including France, India, Saudi Arabia, and the US—posted markedly greater usage; many others—including Italy, Malaysia, and the UK—saw minimal or no growth. And in some countries—including Ireland, Japan, and Vietnam—voice search was less widespread than last year. Researchers also reported some notable age- and gender-related shifts in voice search.

This is just a small sampling of the granular detail that GlobalWebIndex data provides. Seen in conjunction with regional and worldwide trends, this wealth of information about the digital citizens of 42 countries should help advertisers and marketers to develop and execute the campaigns they need to be successful in a world changing more rapidly than ever.

Welcome to eMarketer’s Global Media Intelligence Report 2020.

About This Report

The 10th edition of the Global Media Intelligence Report is a continued partnership with Starcom and collaboration with GlobalWebIndex. We are committed to providing consistent representation of topics, demographic groups, and time frame from the 2019 edition. We once again turned to GlobalWebIndex—a primary research provider to Starcom and a valued partner of eMarketer—to achieve this goal.

The ongoing quarterly survey among internet users in 42 markets worldwide is the hallmark of GlobalWebIndex. On behalf of Starcom’s parent company, Publicis Media, GlobalWebIndex includes additional survey questions across their panel. This culmination of consistent and transparent multimarket methodology engenders trust in the global data.

Charts in the Global Media Intelligence Report include the questions posed by GlobalWebIndex to the respondents and related, localized details.

GlobalWebIndex Methodology Statement

GlobalWebIndex runs a quarterly research program, asking internet users ages 16 to 64 in more than 40 countries a range of questions about their digital lives and lifestyles. The minimum sample size per quarter, per country is 1,250; bigger markets have larger quarterly sample sizes, with the maximum being 25,000 in China and the US. Respondents can only participate in GlobalWebIndex’s research once per year.

The survey is designed to cover attitudes, perceptions, and actual behaviors. All data is self-reported and therefore, the answers are from the respondent’s perspective rather than any passively observed metrics. For questions such as time spent with specific media, respondents are asked to select a time estimate from a list rather than entering a precise figure; all answers are then aggregated to produce an average time.

The results presented in this report are drawn from questions fielded in two different surveys running concurrently. The first is a short survey offered via mobile; it contains a key set of 50 questions and reaches mobile-only respondents (who tend to be younger, less affluent, and concentrated in emerging markets). The second is a longer survey offered via PC, laptop, tablet, or mobile; this longer survey contains all the same questions asked in the shorter mobile survey together with a wide range of additional ones.

Within each survey, questions are routed and filtered to ensure a respondent only sees relevant queries. Similarly, some sections of the longer survey are shown to representative subsections of the full sample to avoid overburdening them. As a result, the total sample that sees each question will vary; some questions will have been answered by all respondents across the shorter and longer surveys, whereas others will only have been answered by respondents taking part in the longer survey (or by a subsection of these respondents). For every question, GlobalWebIndex nevertheless ensures a robust and representative sample.

The final data set is weighted to interlocking age, gender, and education quotas, which reflect each country’s internet population. Note that GlobalWebIndex only interviews and represents internet users ages 16 to 64 in each country—not its total population. In countries with a high internet penetration (including in North America, Australia, and much of Europe), online samples will have an age, gender, and education profile that closely resembles that of the general/total population. Conversely, low internet penetration countries (including in Latin America and large parts of the Middle East and Africa and Asia-Pacific) will have online samples containing proportionally higher levels of young, urban, and educated individuals, reflecting the nature of internet usage in those countries. In some markets in the Middle East and Africa and Asia-Pacific, there will also be a gender skew toward males, in line with their increased likelihood to be internet users.

As this research is conducted via mobile and desktop platforms, all questions and answer options are presented in the respondent’s local language; in multilingual countries, they can choose the language in which they wish to complete the survey at the outset.


Karin von Abrams


Anam Baig
Senior Editor
Joanne DiCamillo
Donte Gibson
Chart Editor
Kathleen Hamblin
Chart Editorial Manager
Dana Hill
Director of Production
Erika Huber
Copy Editor
Magenta Ranero
Senior Chart Editor
Hilary Rengert
VP, Research Strategy
Amanda Silvestri
Senior Copy Editor

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