Media consumption in the Middle East is in transition, with far more people watching broadcast or online news and political talk shows as a result of recent regional events, according to the Arab Media Outlook Report (2011-2015).
Launched on 30 April by Dubai Press Club, the study says television viewers are increasingly tuning in to 'ultra local' content due to the regional uprisings, and local content has also become a strong focus for pan-Arab broadcasters.
Although imported TV shows, many from Turkey, continue to dominate ratings, there is an increasing trend to develop content within the Middle East, with many Gulf studios taking the initiative to increase production during the unrest rocking traditional Arab broadcast centres of Egypt and Syria.
Al Jazeera's live political talk show Al Etijah Al Moakes claimed the highest number of viewers in the UAE, followed by general entertainment shows such as Arab Idol, Dance India Dance, and other imported programmes like Jeopardy, Comedy Circus and Sada Al Maleb.
International players are looking to invest in regional content and identify strategic niche segments, and the introduction of 'people meters' to measure television audiences in Gulf markets such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia is expected to boost transparency.
The number of high definition (HD) channels is on the rise in the Middle East, but monetisation remains a challenge for broadcasters. Likewise, in a region dominated by free to air broadcasting, pay-TV adoption remains low, although the report points to some success in the combat against content piracy.
Political unrest in the Arab world has, on the whole, had a positive impact on regional media, raising the bar on quality reporting and speeding up engagement with digital platforms, as well as attracting the interest of global media houses.
"In several markets directly affected by the political uprisings, the structure of the media industry is virtually being overhauled with a significant break from the past. However, the pace of media reform in these markets is likely to be gradual with the pressing economic and political issues being taken up as immediate priorities," said Miriam Bin Fahd, executive director, Dubai Press Club.
"Our analysis considers the economic and political environment of each of the markets covered in the report, nevertheless there could be potential downside risks given that the media industry in some of these markets is in a rebuilding phase," she added.
Over 140 stakeholders from the world of print, television, internet, radio, cinema, and advertising shared their perspectives in the new Arab Media Outlook report, titled Arab Media: Exposure and Transition.