By Ziad ISSA
The media industry in general, and in KSA in specific, is undergoing rapid transformation, both from a technological perspective and consumption patterns that are determined by new consumer-driven innovations.
It is an era where the linear TV industry rival’s competition from the digital world, where people catch-up with their best shows and fulfill their news and information needs. Consequently, TV channels are evolving to meet consumers’ and viewers ‘needs, by evolving their marketing and communications strategies. This is ever so evident, especially during the Holy month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is the time of year where people not only congregate to share iftar, but it is also a time where people spend more time at home with their families. This becomes the ideal setting for them to view their best TV programs and shows every night. Though some might find it more convenient to watch their shows online, Saudis still spend more than 5 hours a day viewing their TV screens during Ramadan. Ramadan 2019 was a very active period for TV, as reach increased from 95.4% during the same period in 2018 to 96.2 percent in 2019 – which means that around 140 thousand residents of Saudi Arabia who didn’t watch TV in Ramadan 2018, did in 2019.
When shedding light on TV consumption audience during the month of Ramadan versus any other time of year, not so many demographical changes can be spotted. Females have the largest share of the total TV viewing population (55 percent), while Millennials form 48 percent of the total TV viewers. This age segment spent more than 5 hours a day, on average, on TV screens during Ramadan.
This clearly shows that even though Millennials are heavy consumers of online streaming (i.e. SVOD, TVOD, etc.), their interest in linear TV remains strong – primarily related to content. In fact, online platforms (SVOD/TVOD etc.) are still weak when it comes to Ramadan’s exclusive and premium content that can potentially attract or shift the audience away from linear TV.
While we noticed some initiatives this Ramadan, with some series available on selected OTT platforms, very few were exclusive, while the rest were all limited to the current broadcasted series or even those that had been broadcasted in previous seasons. In a market where exclusivity and premium content represent a key driver, this initiative didn’t have any significant impact on the traditional TV viewership. Despite the increase in time spent online, TV remains the king and the first window to access premium content.
In Ramadan 2019, big-budget drama shows as well as other captivating series and comedies captured the widest audience share, a trend that has not changed over the past 3 years in Saudi Arabia. Series are topping the audience share with 51%, followed by social and cultural programs (18.8 percent), humor and comedy (10.9 percent) and religion (9.8 percent).
|Airtime (%)||Share of Audience (%)||Programs’ count|
|Social and Cultural||21.2%||18.8%||40|
Ramadan viewership is scattered across different dayparts, where people break their fast while enjoying a TV show and thus an increase in viewership is seen between 7PM and 9PM; not a very common trend during other times of year. While more content is broadcasted, viewership keeps increasing to reach 85 percent of Saudis at evening.
In this context, we have also witnessed another important trend within Advertising expenditures on TV (noting that the expenditure figures are based on rate cards and monitored channels, covering KSA and the Pan Arab Region). Around $1.1B were spent on TV in Ramadan 2019, compared to $946M in Ramadan 2018. This is a double-digit growth in the advertising spend on TV. This increase proves that the linear TV is still very efficient, and the advertiser are noting this efficiency on their commercial revenues, being clearly aware that maintaining high advertising activities on TV is crucial, especial during the holy month.
Ipsos’ audience measurement and analytics supports broadcasters and media agencies by providing them with the insight and knowledge about TV viewership and trends. It is with full certainty that the consumers in Saudi Arabia are still watching TV, especially during Ramadan. And what’s also clear, is that content remains the essential element, regardless of where it is broadcasted.
Ziad ISSA is the Chief Client Officer at Ipsos MENA.