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Global Media Insight Report Provides Concise Picture of Media Trends in UAE & KSA


Global Media Insight Report Provides Concise Picture of Media Trends in UAE & KSA

Market research companies eMarketer and Global Web Index have collaborated together to release the 10th edition of the global media intelligence report. The report is a detailed compilation of data and insights about internet users’ traditional and digital media usage in 42 key markets worldwide. Communicate will be highlighting the key trends that are shaping the media landscape for the UAE and Saudi Arabia that are listed in the report.

Key Findings From the United Arab Emirates

  • The online population in UAE, like Saudi Arabia, is chiefly composed of archetypal early adopters with established digital habits.
  • Daily time devoted to print newspapers and magazines lagged time spent with online press—at 1:02 to 1:30 on average, respectively—but both had increased year on year.
  • In H1 2020, the share of internet users owning a smartphone remained vastly greater than the share owning a PC at 97.1% versus 64.7%. Neither value had altered much since H1 2019. Some 37.0% of respondents owned a tablet—a decrease of nearly 3 percentage points year over year (YoY). Feature phone penetration dropped below 10% for the first time.
  • Confirming the primacy of mobile activity, internet users spent an estimated four hours, 16 minutes per day on average with mobile devices. Time spent with PCs and tablets was a full hour less at three hours and 16 minutes. In fact, PC and tablet time had decreased from H1 2019, while mobile time rose.
  • Smart TV penetration also declined marginally to 37.3% in H1 2020. As in Turkey, there was a notable drop in ownership of smart TVs among internet users living in affluent households.
  • All traditional media lost audience share in UAE between Q1 2019 and Q1 2020, according to GlobalWebIndex/Publicis Media. That said, broadcast media reached a large majority of internet users; 78.5% of those polled had watched TV in the prior month, and 63.9% had listened to radio programs.
  •  Penetration of print newspapers dropped more than 8 percentage points to 52.8%, while print magazine readership fell to 48.0%. Respondents in low- and high-income households were more likely to read either format than internet users in middle-income households.

  • Many people now listen to digital audio material, too. Younger internet users predominate in these audiences. More than three-quarters (77.2%) of respondents in UAE had streamed music, podcasts, or other digital audio content in the prior month, with more than 84% of 16- to 34-year-olds doing so. Intriguingly, affluents were no longer the income group most engaged with digital audio this year; instead, penetration was slightly higher among low-income respondents.
  • Voice search continues to gain fans as well, though most of these still belong to typical early-adopter demographics. Among total respondents in H1 2020, 46.2% had used tools like Microsoft’s Cortana or Apple’s Siri in the prior month or used voice commands via a smart speaker or similar device. Usage exceeded 50% among respondents ages 16 to 34.
  • Online video viewing hasn’t yet achieved the reach of live TV in UAE. While 83.3% of those polled had streamed video in the previous month, 88.8% had watched live TV. Similarly, the average time spent each day with digital video content (1:40) was marginally less than time spent with broadcast TV.
  • Social networking continues to expand its audience as well, with penetration hitting 86.0% of those polled in H1 2020. Respondents spent a daily average of three hours and 11 minutes with social platforms, per GlobalWebIndex. YouTube is included in this social category, which tends to boost penetration and time spent.


Key Findings From Saudi Arabia

  • Smartphones rule the device hierarchy in Saudi Arabia. PCs and smart TVs rank second and third.
  • Smartphone penetration among internet users in Saudi Arabia ages 16 to 64 approached 99% in H1 2019 and was essentially the same (98.7%) this year, according to GlobalWebIndex.
  • Ownership of desktops and laptops increased to 61.1% in H1 2020. City dwellers were more likely to have a PC than respondents living in suburban areas. Nearly 73% of affluent internet users owned a PC, as well.
  • Smartwatches had also gained fans since last year, and 18.4% of internet users polled in H1 2020 owned such a device. Among 25- to 34-year-olds and affluents, that share was nearly a quarter.
  • By contrast, smart home devices are struggling to convince internet users of their usefulness or value for money. Just more than 5% of respondents owned a smart home product this year—compared with 7.4% in H1 2019.


  • Digital activities dominate media time for most internet users, and by a large margin.
  • Social platforms appeared even more popular than in H1 2019, with penetration climbing from 87.8% to 90.4% of internet users. Social media also ranked third in terms of time spent, accounting for 3:14 daily, on average. This is no surprise, given the amount of social networking that takes place on mobile. It’s also relevant that GlobalWebIndex includes YouTube in its list of social media platforms; that likely increases penetration and time spent with the medium.

  • Traditional TV reached a greater proportion of Saudi Arabia’s internet users in H1 2020; some 88.6% of those surveyed had watched live TV in the prior month, spending 1:57 per day. But broadcast TV viewing is increasingly concentrated in the upper half of the age spectrum. More than 90% of respondents aged 35 and older had watched TV shows in the prior month, compared with 76.3% of respondents ages 16 to 24.

  • Moreover, the share of internet users who watch digital video is fast approaching the share of live TV viewers at 87.3%. In fact, video streaming time spent has already overtaken broadcast TV at two hours and three minutes, per GlobalWebIndex.
  • Similarly, time devoted to online press surpassed time spent with print publications. Internet users polled in H1 2020 spent an average of 51 minutes each day with print newspapers and magazines but one house and 32 minutes daily reading online press.
  • The audio picture is more complex. Broadcast radio continues to do well in Saudi Arabia. The share of internet users tuning in to live radio programming in the previous month rose from 51.5% in Q1 2019 to 55.8% in Q1 2020, per GlobalWebIndex/Publicis Media. Yet digital audio is on the rise as well. Some 81.2% of respondents polled this year had streamed music or accessed podcasts or other audio content from digital sources in the month prior. And the time spent with broadcast radio—an average of 45 minutes per day—was less than half the one hour and 34 minutes devoted daily to music streaming alone.

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