Saudi cinemas will boost movie sector across KSA

Demand for movie content is growing rapidly in Saudi Arabia, with the Starz Play subscriber base doubling every six months since it launched two and a half years ago in the Kingdom. Vikings is the most popular series on the Saudi site, which receives around 40 million hits per month. (Photo courtesy of Starz Play)
Updated 25 December 2017
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Saudi cinemas will boost movie sector across KSA

LONDON: Reforms are set to transform the small screen as well as the big screen in Saudi Arabia as film fans anticipate the re-launch of cinemas across the Kingdom next year.
The benefits will be felt across the Saudi entertainment industry, which recently received a SR10 billion ($2.66 billion) boost from the government-owned Public Investment Fund to develop the sector in line with Vision 2030 ambitions.
Danny Bates, co-founder of streaming site Starz Play, said the reintroduction of cinemas to Saudi life is “a big positive for the video streaming sector” and “another step toward bringing quality entertainment to Saudi Arabia.”
Demand for movie content is growing rapidly in Saudi Arabia, with the Starz Play subscriber base doubling every six months since it launched two and a half years ago in the Kingdom.
“Our highest content consumption rates per month are coming from Saudi customers,” Bates said, identifying action and comedy as the most popular genres among subscribers there.
Vikings is the most popular series on the Saudi site, which receives around 40 million hits per month, with comedy classics including Friends and How I Met Your Mother also among the most-viewed.
Rather than creating competition, the introduction of cinemas is likely to catalyze further growth, raising the profile of film across the country, Bates explained.
“If Fast and the Furious 8 is playing in the cinemas, viewers can then turn to us to watch Fast and the Furious 1 through 7.”
In addition, the cinema is an ideal platform for the company’s advertising campaigns. “We’ve done this successfully in the UAE and Kuwait and would hope to do something similar in Saudi Arabia.”
According to Ravi Rao, CEO of Mindshare MENA, lifting the cinema ban will generate a new market for advertisers in Saudi Arabia, with “international and local brands vying to be there.”
The development will have a significant impact on advertising in the Kingdom, creating additional touch points and opening new channels of communication.
“Brand integration in movies will take a bigger turn when Saudi audiences can be targeted,” Rao said.
Advertising spending in MENA has seen a continuous decline in recent years but while the downturn is forecast to continue elsewhere, Saudi Arabia can anticipate growth in the industry, fueled by ambitious reforms that are creating new opportunities for investors.
“Ad spend in Saudi Arabia (including the PanArab TV spends) is now at under $2 billion from a high of $2.5 billion two years ago. But with all the cultural and economic glasnost that is sweeping the country, one can start expecting double-digit growth by 2020,” said Rao.
Ema Linaker, an executive director of digital at Golin, said the seismic shifts taking place as Saudi Arabia pursues its Vision 2030 targets will draw in advertisers formerly focused elsewhere in the region.
“Just this week, Saudi Arabia unveiled the 2018 budget, the largest in the Kingdom’s history with SR978 billion ($261 billion) public spending. With other markets like the UAE set to contract, a lot of the key advertising groups will be pivoting toward the Kingdom to secure a piece of that investment in 2018.”
More than 50 percent of the Saudi population is under 25 and between 65 and 70 percent are under 30 — demographics that appeal to advertisers anticipating an “abundant fanbase” for film in the Kingdom, Linaker added.
Pointing to a Comic-Con event in Jeddah last February attended by more than 10,000 people, she said: “Cinema looks set to become a national pastime for Saudis, thereby driving up audience figures and increasing the amount of people exposed to cinema advertising.”
Access to Saudi audiences will also have a bearing on how advertisers target consumers, injecting new vigor into the industry.
“From a cultural perspective, the opening up of cinema and entertainment sectors such as music and sports will fuel sponsorships and activation to increase ad spends in the near future,” said Roy M Haddad, director of WPP MENA.
“Brands and agencies will quickly re-invent and adapt to the new social and cultural movement in Saudi. Cinema will act as a trigger for many more changes in brand communication, experience and engagement,” he added.
Like the rest of the region, Saudi advertising is heavily weighted toward television, but with a major uplift across digital platforms, media companies are exploring new ways of engaging MENA audiences online.
“I believe like all Gulf countries we will see Saudi Arabia gradually shift toward digital advertising, driven by its mainly young and tech-savvy population,” said Linaker.
Citing Euromonitor, she said that Saudi Arabia’s advertising industry is anticipated to see flat growth over 2016-2021, as the introduction of VAT and additional taxes on certain commodities dampen private consumption.
Meanwhile, international media agencies will beef up their Saudi teams, creating a larger platform for local talent.
“Ogilvy, Leo Burnett and many other major ad agencies have a local footprint in Riyadh and Jeddah but these tend to be satellite offices and attracting quality ad talent has been a constant challenge,” said Linaker.
“However, we are starting to see young talent coming through the ranks born Saudi, educated in Saudi and passionate about developing a creative culture within the Kingdom.”
“With more investment, talent and opportunities arising, I can see Saudi becoming a hot bed of innovation and creativity quite quickly. It is a huge market and full of opportunity.”


Saudi Arabia, South Korea reach agreement on visas

King Salman chairs the Cabinet session in Riyadh on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 16 January 2019
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Saudi Arabia, South Korea reach agreement on visas

  • Cabinet OKs air transport pact with Indonesia

JEDDAH: The Saudi Cabinet met to discuss a series of national and global developments on Tuesday, in a session chaired by King Salman.

At the forefront of the agenda was the escalation in tensions between Israel and Hamas along the Gaza border, and the continuing encroachment on Palestinian land by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The Cabinet responded by demanding that the UN Security Council intervene. King Salman also relayed to ministers the outcome of his talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which covered many regional issues.

The minister of media, Turki bin Abdullah Al-Shabanah, announced that after reviewing proposals from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a decision from the Shoura Council, a memorandum of understanding between the government and the Republic of Korea on granting visit visas had been agreed upon.

The Cabinet approved the amendment of the air agreement on regular air transport between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.

The Cabinet, meanwhile, praised the progress of the 2025 Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development Program, aimed at enhancing farming techniques by promoting sustainable water and renewable energy sources.

They also discussed the framework in Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program 2020 for building a sustainable renewable energy sector, reiterating aims to lead global renewable energy developments over the next decade, and create projects such as the wind-powered plant at Dumat Al-Jandal, as part of the King Salman Renewable Energy Initiative.

In a statement, though, Al-Shabanah said: “The Cabinet discussed the announcement made by the minister of energy, industry and mineral resources about the Kingdom’s oil and gas reserves, which highlighted the importance of Saudi Arabia as a secure source of oil supplies in the long term.”

He added, in closing, the Cabinet’s praise for the efforts of Saudi security forces in the tracking and arrest of seven people in Qatif, which foiled a planned terrorist attack.