Mobile and digital media use expected to grow in UAE

Arab Media Outlook report showed that about 91 per cent of people in UAE own a smartphone

18:27 February 22, 2017
A family watching TV in Sharjah at their residence.

Dubai: The UAE is one of the most technologically advanced markets in the region, with one of the highest online penetration rates, highest concentration of media free zones, and the largest radio market throughout the Middle East and North Africa, the Arab Media Outlook Report 2016 showed.

On average, a person in the UAE owns three internet-connected devices, ranging from a laptop, tablet, smartphone, smart TV to a set-top box, the report said.

“Our analysis suggested that overall, the UAE media market is set to grow from $2 billion in 2015 to more than $2.2 billion market by 2018,” the report said.

The digital version of the Arab Media Outlook report, ‘Youth ... Content ... Digital Media’, was launched by the Dubai Press Club (DPC) and the Dubai Media City (DMC) on Wednesday.

The fifth edition provides a comprehensive view of media across 14 key markets in the pan-Arab region, and highlights future trends that will emerge in the media industry in the next few years.

The report showed that about 91 per cent of people in the UAE own a smartphone, while 89 per cent of people access the internet daily.

“Mobile use is expected to continue rising with more than 80 per cent of people going online while watching TV, while 84 per cent of people go online using a mobile than using a desktop computer,” stated the report.

The report also mentioned that when it comes to online activities, search, social networking and video are primary services used by users in the UAE. “Search usage is dominated by Google with 86 per cent reach … while like search, social networking services are dominated by Facebook and its growing family of services such as Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp,” the report said.

The report covers studies and data on paid media and advertising-funded revenues across all platforms — digital, mobile, print, TV and radio — with a strategic and qualitative assessment of each sector, including emerging trends, industry challenges and growth drivers.

“The digital version of the report reflects the government’s strategy towards transforming into a smart city, noting that digital production is an effective method to communicate with a larger segment of audiences and media professionals around the Arab world and beyond,” said Alia Al Theeb, Director of the DPC.

Trends in TV and radio

Looking into TV trends, the report showed the UAE is the headquarters to more than 72 free-to-air TV channels — only slightly behind Egypt and Saudi Arabia — in the Arab world. It said ZEE TV is the leading channel in the UAE, as the country is driven by a high Indian subcontinent expatriate population. The UAE also has 16 terrestrial channels, of which 13 are state-owned.

“Pay TV is the key driver of TV growth as it continues to be the second largest market regarding value,” stated the report.

Meanwhile, the UAE has over 40 radio stations, making it the most mature radio market in the region. Of the 40 stations, 14 radio stations are in Arabic and the rest are distributed across English, Hindi, Tamil, Tagalog, Malayalam, Russian, Persian and Urdu languages.

“Majority of UAE radio listeners listen to radio channels in their car, due to ease of access, no cost of consumption to consumers, and increase in commuting time,” mentioned the report.

It also reported that music is the primary reason for listening to radio in the UAE, followed by news and religious radio.

“Radio in the UAE is expected to grow, led by its ability to substitute for expensive media such as print. Digitisation trends are also becoming more prevalent in the UAE, with many stations offering their content online and via apps,” the report explained.

The report reveals that the Middle East and North Africa production market is expected to surge to $12.4 billion by 2018. It also attributes the shift to digital media to the youth as the young (under 24) comprise almost 50 per cent of the region’s population, which is double that of many developed countries such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom.