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A Day in the Life: Brazil's Changing Media Habits

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Television in Brazil has traditionally been dominated the large media conglomerate Globo, whose broadcast network has an average of 91m daily viewers - almost half of the population. Its interests in various cable and satellite operators mean that Globo reaches an estimated 90% of pay TV households in Brazil. The main competitors, Record and SBT, trail far behind.

In recent years, however, discontent with mainstream media coverage of ongoing political protests has lead the Internet, and in particular social media, to be seen by many as an alternative to Brazil’s media monopolies.

Just over half the country has an Internet connection, although outside of the major cities, average Internet speeds are relatively poor.

This fourth blog post exploring TV and VOD viewing around the world examines Brazil’s changing TV and media landscape. Based on interviews, market data and news stories from Brazil, this post tells the story of the Pereira family from Sao Paulo, who are part of Brazil’s growing middle class.

Amanda (39) is a primary school teacher, working between 7am and 3pm. Her husband Filipe (43) is a senior executive at a large technology and computing company. They live in a suburb of Sao Paulo with their three children, Laura (16), Alex (10) and Gabriela (4).

After finishing work at 3pm, Amanda visits her mother, who has been looking after Gabriela during the afternoon.

Laura and Alex leave school at around 4pm, taking the private school bus home. Both are involved in extracurricular activities. Laura trains twice a week with her volleyball team, while Alex has extra English classes.

Amanda and the children arrive home at 4.30pm. Amanda is in the kitchen feeding Gabriela and marking school work. Whilst Amanda marks her school work, Gabriela watches nursery rhymes on the hugely popular YouTube channel Galinha Pintadinha on the family iPad.

Child with tablet

Adapted from a photo by Maria Elana on Flickr, used under creative commons license

Alex is allowed to watch 20 minutes cartoons on the TV in the living room, before sitting down to do his maths homework.

Laura goes to her room and switches on her laptop. She spends the next hour doing homework, but she also browses the Internet and social media sites, particularly Facebook.

At 6pm she goes downstairs to watch the telenovela Malhaçâo on Globo, where she is joined by Amanda, who has just put Gabriela to bed.

Evening TV is dominated by these telenovelas, soap-like drama series which are compulsive viewing for many Brazilians. Three to four different novelas are usually shown throughout the evening, starting from a family friendly show at around 6pm right through until 10pm, where the themes get progressively more adult. Local and national news is broadcast between shows.

Despite commanding a massive audience, telenovelas are waning in popularity, particularly among younger audiences, who prefer US sitcoms, and there has been a decline in viewing figures since 2000.

Traditional viewing is also facing strong competition from social media platforms, with sites such as YouTube and Facebook leading the online video market with 62m and 39m viewers respectively. While watching Malhaçâo, Laura is browsing Facebook on her smartphone, and chatting with friends over WhatsApp about topics which are not necessarily related to the show.

Girl using smartphone

Phone Home’ by Alessandro Valli on Flickr. Used here under creative commons license.

Filipe finishes work at 5pm, but the usual heavy rush-hour traffic means he does not arrive home until 7pm. Like most workers in Sao Paulo, he spends around 3 hours a day stuck in traffic. He is able to catch up on the day’s news on his phone and football news through programmes on the local radio stations. He is considering having an in-car TV installed.

Sao Paulo Traffic

Traffic in Sao Paulo. Photo by Ze Carlos Barretta on Flickr and used under Creative Commons license

When he arrives home, Filipe spends 20 minutes playing basketball with his son Alex, who is not allowed to watch TV or play video games after 7pm.

The family sits down to eat dinner at 8pm. After dinner, Alex goes to bed and Laura goes back to browsing social media and online videos on her computer, and chatting with her friends on WhatsApp.

Comedy and sports videos are a particular favourite of Laura’s. Videos from the YouTube channel ‘Portos dos Fundos’, which has over 1.6bn views, are regularly shared on her news feed. Other favourites include the music channel VEVO, which attracts nearly 17m views a month, and TV UOL, a web portal offering a mix of news and sport, entertainment and humour videos. Later she watches an episode of How I Met Your Mother, which she has downloaded illegally.

The big three broadcasters all offer their own online short form content, mainly comprised of moments from TV shows - particularly entertainment, sports and telenovelas. Globo’s own online offering of ad-funded short form news and TV highlights attracts around 19m online viewers a month.

Meanwhile, Felipe and Amanda sit down to watch TV together. Amanda enjoys watching the cookery shows which air at 8:30pm on the Globosat channel, GNT.

The family get their Internet and cable subscription through NET Brasil and are among 30% of Brazilian households with pay TV. Through their subscription to NET the family can access Globo’s Globosat pay TV channels. Globo’s various interests in cable and satellite operators mean that the media conglomerate reaches an estimated 90% of pay TV households in Brazil.

While Amanda watches her cooking show, Filipe reads news articles and watches videos on his phone. While many Brazilians get their news from Globo, Filipe prefers to read from a range of alternative sources such as the BBC and The Huffington Post, as well as new media sources, such as Midia NINJA.

Filipe’s long rush-hour commute means he has limited time to spend watching TV, so he and Amanda choose to watch quality content, usually a US or UK import through their cable TV subscription.

Their provider is currently offering HBO, including on demand service, free for three months, which they are able to watch using the on demand section of their set top box. They are currently watching the fourth and fifth seasons of Game of Thrones.

They were first introduced to the show through a friend of the family, who leant them the first two seasons on DVD. Prior to getting HBO through their NET subscription, a colleague of Filipe gave him a downloaded copy of season 3. Brazil is one of the biggest illegal downloaders of video in the world, with Game of Thrones being one of the most downloaded shows in history.

Filipe is considering taking out a subscription to Netflix when his free HBO offer runs out. The lack of advertisements, access to US shows House of Cards and Breaking Bad, and the walled garden of the ‘kids’ section are particularly appealing. So far Netflix has reached 5 million subscribers in its Latin American markets, while the second biggest OTT service, Claro Video, has approximately 1 million.

After the episode of Game of Thrones finishes, the couple watch the national news live on Globo before going to bed.

TV and media in Brazil has traditionally been dominated by large media conglomerates and telenovelas. While this largely remains the case - Globo’s reach covers nearly the entire population of Brazil and telenovelas still play a significant role in the lives of many millions of Brazilians - the Internet and social media, along with the exposure to US content, is increasingly influencing the viewing habits of the Brazilian population.

This is particularly pronounced among young people and middle class families. Teenagers and young adults are increasingly choosing to spend their free time online, communicating with friends over social media, watching short form videos and reading news, sports and entertainment content.

For families with young children, such as the Pereiras, who are conscious of the advertising to which their kids are exposed to on mainstream television, online video is also seen as a safer alternative. Sites such as YouTube, which contain a children's only mode that filters out inappropriate content, provide access to educational videos and nursery rhymes without exposing them to advertising.

The growth of pay TV, providing access to shows from abroad, is also contributing to this shift. Audiences are increasingly looking to spend their evenings watching better quality content, particularly those who have limited free time.

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