SHANGHAI: Chinese consumers will spend more time on digital channels than traditional media for the first time in 2016, according to new data from eMarketer.

The New York-based research firm said the average Chinese adult will spend six hours and six minutes a day consuming media in various forms this year, including an average of three hours and five minutes spent on social media and digital platforms.

The increasing popularity of online content, particularly social media and video, is a trend seen across China, but the country's urban areas are recording faster growth.

A proliferation of smartphones among the Chinese middle class has been the key driver for the increase in digital time and Chinese consumers are anticipated to spend one hour and 18 minutes of daily media time on their smartphones in 2016 — an increase of 9.6% on the previous 12 months.

However, the amount of time Chinese spend watching television is projected to remain consistent this year at two hours and 39 minutes on average per day — a drop of one minute since 2015.

Though digital has overtaken TV in urban areas, the channel still remains a strong investment across China, placing second in urban markets and taking up 43.5% of total media time spent.

Outside of the main cities, the balance between digital and traditional is different from the cities because, until two years ago, access to the internet in many parts of China was rare.

While internet connectivity is on the rise in rural China, it is often at a lower bandwidth meaning that consumption of rich media content such as online video is more difficult, particularly from mobile devices.

The advertising industry is also responding to the change in media consumption habit, with adspend movements indicating that digital is seen as the future of Chinese advertising.

Well over half (58.3%) of adspend budgets will be dedicated to digital media in 2016, eMarketer forecast, and this will exceed the share of time consumers spend with the channel.

Data sourced from eMarketer; additional content by Warc staff