The Use of Smartphones for Watching Content: Economic Consequence or Cultural Inclination?

An analysis on user's preferences for this device.

The consumption of series and movies through online platforms is high on a global level. Although over 75% of households choose it as a form of entertainment, each region has its peculiarities regarding consumption patterns, economic disparities, and cultural habits.

One standout factor compared to others is the choice of device most used to view this type of content. In the United States and Canada (UCAN), 71% prefer Smart TVs, while, with a 22-point difference, 49% use smartphones. Something similar happens in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), where Smart TVs are the most popular choice in 60% of households, and 46% using smartphones. This trend reverses in Asia and the Pacific (APAC), where smartphones are the most used devices for viewing online content. In fact, 79% of households prefer smartphones, surpassing its direct competitor, the Smart TV, by a margin of 25%.

But what is the reason behind this difference? To delve deeper, it is necessary to clarify which countries prefer to watch online content on smaller screens. In APAC, there are three countries where smartphones are the most used devices: India, chosen by 88% of households, Indonesia, and China, with 86% and 78% respectively.

Similarly, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Turkey share this trend, as over 60% of households use smartphones.


It’s no coincidence that some platforms have implemented mobile plans to offer users the opportunity to reduce costs. In fact, in the Africa region, there are 90 plans, and in Asia, there are 28.

Netflix is one of the platforms that adopted this type of plan. In South Africa, the mobile plan costs USD $5.70 less than the standard plan (a 65% discount). In Indonesia, the difference is USD $6.11 (62% less). In India, the “Mobile” plan is priced at USD $1.97 (70% less than the standard plan).


Other streaming services have also expanded their offerings and integrated mobile plans in the mentioned countries, such as Showmax, Zee5, Vidio, and Sony Liv, among others. In India, Amazon Prime Video introduced an annual plan for USD $7.30, which amounts to $0.61 per month. In Saudi Arabia, Starzplay charges USD $3.99 for this type of plan.

An interesting analysis arises when crossing smartphone preference and the proliferation of plans designed for single users with the socioeconomic characteristics of countries where this form of consumption predominates. For 2023, one common factor is the very low monthly minimum wages in dollars. In South Africa, it reaches USD $248, while in Indonesia, it’s USD $184. On the other hand, in India, it doesn’t exceed USD $60 per month. Additionally, these are countries with a high level of social inequality.

Following this line of reasoning, Latin America could be fertile ground for the expansion of mobile plans and the use of OTTs through smartphones. Economically speaking, it presents similar characteristics: minimum wages range from USD $8 per month in Venezuela to USD $540 in the case of Uruguay.

HBO MAX saw this opportunity and introduced its mobile plan in Uruguay, Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina in June 2021, which was later expanded to the rest of the Latin American countries. However, it was gradually phased out and became inactive in January 2023.

This change can be explained by the fact that, regionally, smartphone usage for viewing content (50%) isn’t far from Smart TV usage (47%). The difference between Latin American, Asian, and African countries might be based on cultural habits. BB Media’s data reveals that in LATAM, 48% of online content consumers engage in the activity alone, while the remaining 52% do so with their partners, friends, or family. In some countries like Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru, this ratio is closer to 40% of individuals viewing content alone and 60% watching content with someone else. With that perspective, it’s understandable that mobile plans might not be as popular in places where the activity is considered a shared moment.


It seems that individualism prevails in Asian and African cultures when it comes to consuming entertainment. Was this aspect influenced by changing economic conditions over time? Will the viewership of content increasingly lean towards an individual activity worldwide in the future?



WRITTEN BY: Victoria Bestard (External Media Analyst at BB Media) 


BB Media is a global Data Science company, specializing in Media and Entertainment for over 36 years. BB Media monitors +4,500 streaming services in +250 countries and territories, their prices, plans, packages and commercial offers. In addition, all film and series catalogues, including standard metadata. Streaming services, networks, programmers, cable operators, agencies, advertisers, studios, distributors, content APPs and technology companies rely on BB Media’s information and value-added analysis to make strategic decisions.    

BB Media has offices in USA, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Italy and the Netherlands.


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