MOSCOW: Internet usage is rising in Russia, with leading websites like Yandex and Mail.ru rivalling Channel One, the country's biggest broadcaster, in terms of audience numbers, a study has found.
A new report from TNS Russia, the research firm, revealed a total of 19.1m people visited Yandex, the search engine, each day during the month of April.
By contrast, Channel One, Russia's largest state-controlled broadcaster, saw peak viewing levels hit 18.2m, based on data from a survey of 12-54 year olds in cities containing over 100,000 people.
Looking elsewhere on the net, Mail.ru, the email platform, was Russia's second most popular website, attracting 17.5m people daily. Vk.com, the social network, came third on 16.2m people.
"The figures indicate a certain trend: more Russians are moving online," Ilya Rachenkov, an analyst at Investcafe, said. "The reasons are growing incomes, decreasing prices for computer hardware and broadband internet access, as well as increasing internet penetration, including [the] mobile internet."
Rachenkov also pointed to the tightening integration between the web, television and radio. "A traditional television can't offer such flexibility and variety yet," he said.
More broadly, TNS found that 31.4m people now watch TV in Russia every day, while the online population has reached 30.5m. The latter group, however, is soon expected to overtake the former in size.
"It's not the limit yet we are likely to see even more TV viewers moving to the internet," Konstantin Chernyshyov, an analyst at UralSib Capital, told the Moscow Times.
According to Chernyshyov, the web's household penetration rate stands at just 35% in Russia, compared with 95% for television, meaning digital media has considerable room for growth.
Equally, online continues to lag TV with regard to adspend. Estimates from AKAR, the industry body, pegged internet ad sales at 10.9bn rubles in the first quarter of this year, up 43%, while TV posted 32bn rubles, up 10%.
Another area where TV still has an advantage is viewing time, with consumers tuning in to Channel One for 63 minutes per day in April, versus 39 minutes for VK.com and ten minutes for Yandex, TNS Russia added.
Data sourced from Moscow Times; additional content by Warc staff