x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Arabic TV figures up over Egypt

Audience figures for the Arabic news channels Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya surged during the civil unrest in Egypt.

Audience figures for the Arabic news channels Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya surged during the civil unrest in Egypt.

But commentators say a feeling of "uncertainty" among advertisers means that will not necessarily translate into an increase in revenues.

There has been a "meteoric rise" in viewership of Arabic news channels in Saudi Arabia, the largest market in the GCC, according to Mindsight, the research arm of the media agencies Mindshare and MediaCom.

During the last week of last month, Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera rose to the second and third most-popular channels in Saudi Arabia, respectively, unseating the entertainment channels MBC4 and MBC Drama, according to Mindsight. Towards the end of last month, just after the Egyptian authorities cut internet connections amid mounting public protests, Al Jazeera was the most-viewed channel in the kingdom.

The shift in viewership is more prominent among men, according to Mindsight. During the protests, Al Jazeera was the most-popular channel with men, unseating MBC1 in Saudi Arabia.

Commentators said the increase in audience figures would increase awareness of the Arab news channels, but said that would not necessarily prompt higher spending on advertising.

"The spike in viewing free-to-air news channels for breaking news in political crises will enhance the brands of the channels," said Jawad Abbassi, the founder and general manager of Arab Advisors Group, a Mena region consultancy. "Whether this would translate into higher ad revenues for these channels remains to be seen."

Commentators have said civil unrest in Egypt caused some advertisers to pull their spending.

Dani Richa, the group president for the Mena region at the advertising agency Impact BBDO, said this month some clients had "stopped their activities everywhere in the Arab world because of what is happening in Egypt".

Sam Barnett, the chief operating officer and general manager of MBC Group, said a feeling of "uncertainty" in the Arab world had prompted some advertisers to temporarily halt their spending.

"I think [advertisers] 'withdrawing' is the wrong word. I think they may have pressed a pause button," he said.