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

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 airports welcome back passengers after two-month hiatus

Updated 3 min 1 sec ago

Saudi airports welcome back passengers after two-month hiatus

  • Social distancing and face masks required in aircraft
  • Two local flights to be added daily to restore capacity 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is welcoming the return of aircraft and passengers amid strict precautionary measures to counter the spread of coronavirus.
The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) on Sunday opened 11 of the Kingdom’s 28 airports in a step toward restoring normality to everyday activities.
All flights and means of travel between Saudi cities ground to a halt on March 21.
“The progressive and gradual reopening aims at controlling the crowd inside airports because we want to achieve the highest health efficiency,” GACA spokesman Ibrahim bin Abdullah Alrwosa told Arab News.
He said that two local flights would be added daily until all routes returned to their normal capacity, during which time GACA would increase the capacity of aircrafts as decided by relevant committees. 
GACA has issued a travel guide for passengers, detailing what steps have been taken by authorities to ensure public health and safety and what obligations are on passengers. 
A decision about the return of international flights was up to authorities, he said. 
“I call on all travelers, both Saudis and residents, to read this guide and to look at the information and details in it because the travel decision depends on it,” the spokesman added.
Passengers found to violate any of the terms and conditions will not be allowed to complete the check-in process as per the new travel procedures.
The new terms include the use of e-tickets and passengers will not be allowed to enter airport premises without one. Purchasing tickets inside airport grounds is currently not an option because booking services for airline sales are currently closed.
Wearing a face mask is a prerequisite for airport access and any individual who fails to wear a face mask will be denied entry to the airport.
Passengers under the age of 15 will not be allowed to travel unaccompanied.
The Ministry of Health has set up temperature checkpoints inside the airport and passengers recording a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or higher will be denied entry in order to ensure their safety and the safety of other passengers.
Social distancing inside the airport has been adopted at entrances, exits, at seating areas and bridges leading to airplanes.
There will be social distancing on the aircraft, with an empty seat between each passenger, according to recommendations from the Ministry of Health, which stipulated that there must be social distancing.
“We want to make airports a safe environment to achieve a safe flight. There is another important issue, which is a well-known social tradition. There are many people at the airport who come to say goodbye to their loved ones or receive them. We will not allow the presence of people who do not have tickets in the airports, in order to ensure the safety of passengers,” said the GACA spokesman.
He said that passenger cooperation and compliance played a key role in the successful restart of flights.
“We rely on citizens and passengers, locals and residents alike, to help us implement preventive measures and to comply with the health rules recommended by the Ministry of Health.”