Saudi Research & Media Group announces transformation strategy focusing on platform expansion and international partnerships across five new verticals

Jomana Al-Rashid, Chief Executive Officer of SRMG (R) and Abdulrahman Ibrahim Alrowaita, Chairman of SRMG (L). (Supplied)
Jomana Al-Rashid, Chief Executive Officer of SRMG (R) and Abdulrahman Ibrahim Alrowaita, Chairman of SRMG (L). (Supplied)
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Updated 11 July 2021

Saudi Research & Media Group announces transformation strategy focusing on platform expansion and international partnerships across five new verticals

Jomana Al-Rashid, Chief Executive Officer of SRMG (R) and Abdulrahman Ibrahim Alrowaita, Chairman of SRMG (L). (Supplied)
  • Owner of more than 30 major media outlets including Asharq Al-Awsat, Asharq News and Arab News pursuing growth strategy under new leadership team
  • Growth strategy builds on partnerships and collaborations with Bloomberg and The Independent

RIYADH: Saudi Research & Media Group (SRMG) – which owns more than 30 major media outlets including Asharq Al-Awsat, Asharq News and Arab News, and has a combined monthly reach of 165 million – announced a new transformation strategy on Sunday focusing on platform expansion, international partnerships and strategic investments across five key business verticals.

SRMG, which is listed on the Tadawul stock exchange in Riyadh, will further expand its current portfolio, digital offerings and global reach by transforming print publications into digital-first platforms, introducing new platforms that address white spaces in the market, investing in media start-ups with bold ideas and building long-term mutually beneficial partnerships with internationally recognized brands. SRMG already has successful partnerships and collaborations with leading media organizations including Bloomberg and The Independent.

Driven by a newly appointed leadership team, SRMG is focused on delivering original, exclusive and premium content to consumers through new digital and social platforms, as well as strengthening its cable and satellite reach. The group will continuously look to leverage its data and technology capabilities to develop new products and services, enhance its monetization capabilities and diversify its revenue streams.

Building on its expanding network of outlets, SRMG will work across five business verticals to unlock new regional and international commercial opportunities:

1.      SRMG Media: Digital Platforms, Podcasts and Multimedia

Digitizing and expanding content creation and distribution to engage audiences with original, unique and exclusive content

2.      SRMG International: International Investments and Partnerships

Building a global network through bespoke partnerships and strategic investments, driven by a team of seasoned media professionals with global experience

3.      SRMG Think: Research and Polling

Providing unique insights and expert analysis from the Middle East and around the world

4.      SRMG X: Events, Conferences and Exhibitions

Delivering leading events that provide important opportunities for personal connection and engagement in a digital world

5.      SRMG Labs: Innovation, Incubation, and Training

Fostering talent and technology, and driving creativity and innovation in the regional media space, while helping to train the next generation of media professionals, journalists and content creators

Abdulrahman Ibrahim Alrowaita, Chairman of SRMG, said: “For almost five decades, our titles like Asharq Al-Awsat, Arab News, Sayidaty and others have played a significant role in telling authentic and impactful stories from the Middle East and around the world. Now, driven by our new strategy, we will strengthen our unique and established position by expanding our global focus and reach and widening our regional footprint in a growing media sector.

“Through new platforms and international partnerships, we will empower global audiences with relevant and reliable news and information. We will remain committed to diversity and inclusivity in journalism and across our newsrooms, fostering talent and innovation by helping develop the next generation of media professionals, journalists and content creators.”

Jomana Al-Rashid, Chief Executive Officer of SRMG, said: “Our focus on premium content creation, introducing new platforms and expanding our reach through new titles and services ensures SRMG will be the primary driver of the region’s digital future in media. New platforms will allow our journalists to report news and deliver audience-centric content backed by data and driven by the latest technology, to reinforce SRMG’s position as the premier media house in the Middle East.

“Our new strategy is an exciting next chapter for a media house with a long legacy of growth and innovation. We look forward to enhancing our engagement with our audiences by continuing to provide relevant and diverse media content, while widening the services we offer and building on our leading media market position.”

SRMG’s new growth strategy is supported by a refreshed brand and new website that reflect the company’s fresh approach while upholding its rich, unique history. Leveraging its legacy, scale and new capabilities, SRMG is uniquely positioned to access growing media markets worldwide.


Aramco tops Arab companies on Brand Finance Global 500 list

Aramco tops Arab companies on Brand Finance Global 500 list
Updated 26 January 2022

Aramco tops Arab companies on Brand Finance Global 500 list

Aramco tops Arab companies on Brand Finance Global 500 list

LONDON: Saudi Aramco has maintained its position as the Middle East’s most valuable brand, with the Brand Finance Global 500 2022 report valuing the Kingdom’s oil giant at $43.6 billion.

Following a difficult period for the oil and gas sector as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Aramco placed 31st in the list and is the only Arab company in the top 100 of the world’s 500 most valuable brands in 2022.

It recently announced plans to increase its production capacity from 12 million barrels per day to 13 million bpd by 2027.

“Despite there only being seven brands from the Middle East in the Brand Finance Global 500 ranking, their strong performances prove once again that the region punches well above its weight on the global stage,” Andrew Campbell, managing director of Brand Finance Middle East, told Arab News. “The future looks bright, with all of the brands from the region – including Aramco, ADNOC, Etisalat, and stc – seeing positive brand value growth this year.”

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company was the second most valuable brand in the region and held on to the top spot in the UAE, asserting the dominance of the oil sector.

ADNOC managed to score a 19 percent brand value growth to $12.8 billion, the fastest among the top 10 oil and gas brands globally, which sees it hold on to its position as the second most valuable brand in the region.

Its CEO Dr. Sultan Al-Jaber was crowned the highest-ranked CEO outside of the US and China. He is also the top-scoring leader in the oil and gas sector.

Other Middle Eastern brands in the top 500 include Saudi telecom provider stc (184th and valued at $10.5 billion), the UAE’s Etisalat (192nd and valued at $10.1 billion), Qatar National Bank (305th and valued at $7.05 billion), and Dubai’s Emirates airline (461st and valued at $4.9 billion).

Expo 2020 Dubai offered Etisalat a chance to demonstrate itself as a strategic enabler of the UAE's digital transformation, meaning it was crowned with the Middle East and Africa’s strongest brand for the second consecutive year.

“Etisalat’s brand focuses on togetherness and plays its part by providing a first-class telecoms infrastructure across its footprint. Exceptional rollout of 5G technology has also meant that the Etisalat Group’s portfolio of brands is the most valuable amongst telecoms organisations in the Middle East,” said David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance.

Saudi Arabia’s stc continued to see good growth this year, with its brand value increasing by 16 percent to $10.6 billion.

Globally, Apple continues to hold the world’s most valuable brand title for the second year in a row, overtaking Amazon and Google. TikTok, meanwhile, was crowned the fastest-growing brand in the world with a growth of 215 percent.

Media brands accounted for the top three fastest-growing brands in the ranking, with Snapchat and South Korea’s Kakao following closely behind TikTok.


Biden caught on hot mic swearing at Fox News reporter

Biden responded to the Fox News question with sarcasm, “It’s a great asset — more inflation.” Then he shook his head and added, “What a stupid son of a bitch.” (AFP)
Biden responded to the Fox News question with sarcasm, “It’s a great asset — more inflation.” Then he shook his head and added, “What a stupid son of a bitch.” (AFP)
Updated 25 January 2022

Biden caught on hot mic swearing at Fox News reporter

Biden responded to the Fox News question with sarcasm, “It’s a great asset — more inflation.” Then he shook his head and added, “What a stupid son of a bitch.” (AFP)
  • US president Joe Biden was caught on camera insulting a Fox News reporter following a question about inflation

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden responded to a question about inflation by calling a Fox News reporter a vulgarity.
The president was in the East Room of the White House on Monday for a meeting of his Competition Council, which is focused on changing regulations and enforcing laws to help consumers deal with high prices. Reporters in the room shouted questions after Biden’s remarks.
Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked Biden about inflation, which is at a nearly 40-year high and has hurt the president’s public approval. Doocy’s network has been relentlessly critical of Biden.
Doocy called out, “Do you think inflation is a political liability ahead of the midterms?”
Biden responded with sarcasm, “It’s a great asset — more inflation.” Then he shook his head and added, “What a stupid son of a bitch.”
The president’s comments were captured on video and by the microphone in front of him. Doocy laughed it off in a subsequent appearance on his network, joking, “Nobody has fact-checked him yet and said it’s not true.”
Doocy told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that Biden called him later to the clear the air. Doocy said Biden told him, “It’s nothing personal, pal.”
The White House did not immediately responded to a request for comment.
The White House has insisted repeatedly that it is focused on curbing inflation, with Biden reorienting his entire economic agenda around the issue. But the president has also shown a willingness to challenge a media that he deems to be too critical, especially Fox News and Doocy.
At his news conference last week, Biden said to Doocy with sarcasm, “You always ask me the nicest questions.”
“I have a whole binder full,” the reporter answered.
“I know you do,” Biden said. “None of them make a lot of sense to me. Fire away.”


OSN commissions first original feature ‘Yellow Bus’

OSN commissions first original feature ‘Yellow Bus’
Updated 25 January 2022

OSN commissions first original feature ‘Yellow Bus’

OSN commissions first original feature ‘Yellow Bus’
  • Film to premiere on the platform this year after theatrical release

DUBAI: Streaming service OSN, which has been investing heavily in original content, has announced its latest original, “Yellow Bus,” which marks its foray into feature films.

“Yellow Bus” tells the story of a schoolgirl who dies from heat exhaustion after falling asleep on a school bus and is left behind.

The movie follows her mother Ananda, played by Tannishtha Chatterjee, as she searches for the truth about her daughter’s death.

“Yellow Bus” explores universal themes of motherhood, grief and dealing with loss against the backdrop of Gulf culture.

“We were drawn to the story as it works on many levels. It takes you on a heartbreaking roller-coaster of the mother’s desperation, while also covering controversial themes and concepts that are rarely addressed in this region,” said Darine ElKhatib, senior vice president of Arabic services and original production at OSN.

The film is written and directed by Wendy Bednarz, who has previously directed short films such as “On Crystal” and “Leaving Gussie,” and is produced by award-winning Jordanian screenwriter and producer Nadia Eliewat.

In addition to Chatterjee, the cast includes Amit Sial as the father, Gagan, and Kinda Alloush as the school owner, Mira.

“I can’t imagine a mother going through the loss of her child; it was a very emotional role for me to immerse myself in the character. The production of the film and the atmosphere on set were a truthful reflection of real life with its diversity of languages and accents,” said Chatterjee.

Alloush added: “When I read the script’s first 10 pages, I knew I wanted to be a part of this film. It’s a relatable story that can take place anywhere.”

The shooting of the film has been completed, and it will premiere on the platform later in the year after its theatrical release.


Netflix meets outrage in Egypt with risque comedy-drama

Netflix meets outrage in Egypt with risque comedy-drama
Updated 25 January 2022

Netflix meets outrage in Egypt with risque comedy-drama

Netflix meets outrage in Egypt with risque comedy-drama

CAIRO: Netflix's first Arabic film production was always set to be a big event, but within days of its release, public opinion in Egypt was so inflamed that critics called for a ban on the platform.
"Ashab wala Aaz" -- one of countless remakes of the Italian comedy-drama "Perfetti Sconosciutti" (Perfect Strangers) -- features renowned actors from Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.
The movie is about a group of friends meeting for dinner and deciding to make the night more interesting by agreeing to share every text message, email and phone call received with the rest of the group.
As events unfold, the game reveals shocking truths about members of the group as it touches on topics from adultery and premarital sex to homosexuality, all widely considered taboos in Egypt.
The film, which was released on January 20, immediately shot up to the most-watched list in Egypt.
But in the ensuing fracas, lawsuits have been filed against the culture ministry and the censor's office for allowing the film to be streamed, and MPs have called for a special session to discuss whether to ban Netflix altogether.
Online, many slammed celebrated Egyptian actress Mona Zaki, who took part in what they dubbed a "disgraceful" movie.
Amid the storm, the US streaming giant has refrained from commenting.

Lawmaker Mostafa Bakry argued Netflix should be banned altogether as he called for an urgent meeting in parliament to discuss it.
Premarital sex is also taboo in Egypt, where in extreme cases it may provoke "honour killings", especially in rural areas.
"This network targets Egyptian and Arab citizens ... we should ban Netflix," Bakri said in an interview with a private TV channel.
He said the film includes "more than 20 suggestive profanities which shocked Egyptian families".
Netflix rated the one-and-a-half hour long feature as not suitable for those under 16 years old, though it did not include any nudity or sex scenes.
Egyptian film critic Tarek Shennawy said he was "surprised" at the attack on actress Mona Zaki.
Zaki, who played the part of a wife trapped in an unsatisfying marriage, was particularly criticised for a scene in which she removes her underwear from under her dress.
On social media, many viewed the scene as a source of shame for her husband -- renowned actor Ahmed Helmi -- and their daughter.
"How did Ahmed Helmi allow his wife to play this part in the movie," one user asked on Twitter.
Another questioned how Zaki "was not afraid for her daughter to see her this bold".
But Shennawy argued that "the movie's content should not affect the personal or national honour of those who took part in it".
"We are confusing fiction with reality and this is very weird."


Mobile app downloads in UAE jump 15 percent in 2021, report shows

Mobile app downloads in UAE jump 15 percent in 2021, report shows
Updated 25 January 2022

Mobile app downloads in UAE jump 15 percent in 2021, report shows

Mobile app downloads in UAE jump 15 percent in 2021, report shows
  • UAE marketers spent $74m in 2021 on Android app installs

DUBAI: With consumers spending 3.8 trillion hours on mobile devices in 2021, it is no surprise that marketers are also spending more on mobile advertising.

UAE marketers spent $74 million in 2021 on Android app installs, representing a 35 percent year-on-year growth, according to a new report by global attribution company AppsFlyer.

A massive 84 percent of UAE businesses said that they consider mobile apps a “must” to remain relevant to their customers.

Overall app installs on iOS and Android devices grew by 15 percent last year. The study found that finance apps were among the most popular, with installs growing by 55 percent.

Retail or shopping apps also increased in popularity, especially during shopping seasons such as Ramadan and White Friday. Total installs of shopping apps in the UAE increased by 24 percent on White Friday (Nov. 26) compared with an average of the previous three Fridays in November.

“Propelled by forward-thinking government initiatives and use of apps, the UAE’s mobile-first economy has been one of the key markets that has quickly shifted to digital in recent years. Many brands are now recognizing that mobile needs to be at the forefront of their business activity,” said Samer Saad, Middle East regional manager of AppsFlyer.

Over 91 percent of UAE organizations now offer mobile apps, with the report highlighting “customer acquisition” and “customer retention and loyalty” as the top two reasons behind the focus on mobile apps.

The investment in mobile is paying off, with over 40 percent saying they believe there has been at least a 26 percent increase in mobile-driven revenues for their organization in the past 12 months.

UAE shoppers’ mobile-friendliness was most evident during the shopping periods of Ramadan and White Friday.

During the holy month, there was a 10 percent increase in overall installs for shopping apps and a massive 71 percent increase for finance apps, compared with the same period in 2020. In fact, in-app spending on both shopping and finance apps recorded triple-digit growth through Ramadan.

Overall spending on shopping apps during White Friday increased by 43 percent despite the number of installs dropping by 41 percent compared with the previous year, suggesting that the average spend per consumer is now higher than in the previous year.

“Looking ahead to 2022, the signs look positive for businesses looking to acquire more customers through their mobile devices. However, as this space becomes more competitive, just providing an app will no longer be enough. Organizations that leverage the power of mobile marketing to offer personalized experiences to their customers will rapidly pull ahead of the pack,” Saad said.