Religious programming losing popularity in Saudi Arabia - Report
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Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat –With the holy Muslim month of Ramadan – which represents the traditional time that Arab and Muslim television viewers watch religious programing – more than half over, statistics indicate that religious programing is losing its popularity amongst Saudi Arabian viewers.
Statistics revealed that religious satellite television channels are losing their popularity amongst Saudi Arabian viewers. These religious Islamic channels had previously enjoyed a huge viewership, broadcasting a wide range of religious programming that is no longer limited to religious events and Friday sermons.
A media expert who specializes in television viewing figures, Dr. Malik al-Ahmed, told Asharq Al-Awsat that religious television channels not receiving large viewing figures this year – particularly during the holy Islamic month – can be interpreted by the fact that so-called “Ramadan dramas” – big budget soap operas and drama series broadcast during Ramadan – are receiving the lion’s share of viewers.
Dr. al-Ahmed revealed that religious programming broadcast on public television channels do not make up more than 10 percent of total programming, whilst religious satellite television channels themselves account for less than 15 percent of all [Arab] television programming.
Media expert Dr. al-Ahmed, who is basing his statistics on an IPSOS report looking at viewing figures for the first week of Ramadan, revealed that MBC is the most popular television channel in the country. In second place is Saudi TV Channel 1 (KSA 1), which is a state-run television channel administered by the Ministry of Culture and Information.
The IPSOS study also revealed that the Arabic television channels with the largest viewership include the two news channels Al-Arabiya TV and Al-Jazeera, as well three entertainment channels, namely MBC, al-Khalijiya TV, and Funoon TV.
Dr. al-Ahmed also revealed that film channels MBC2, MBC Action, and Rotana Cinema also enjoyed significant popularity in Saudi Arabia.
The list of the 50 most popular television channels amongst Saudi viewers is made up of 13 “drama” television channels, 7 Islamic religious television channels, 5 television channels dedicated to sports, 3 news channels, and 3 “specialist” television channels, amongst others.
Commenting on these figures, media expert Dr. Malik al-Ahmed said that television channels dedicated to broadcasting drama and soap operas continue to enjoy tremendous popularity, enjoying no less than 45 percent of viewership figures. He also revealed that the 20 most popular television channels enjoy, in total, 94 percent of the viewership figures.
Al-Ahmed also revealed that viewership figures revealed that a number of channels have witnessed a steep decline in popularity in recent years, with the religious television channel Iqraa TV coming in 48th place this year, whilst it was ranked 22nd most popular television channel in Saudi Arabia last year.
He said “viewers have stronger ties to television programs than to the channels showing them, despite the fact that some channels have continued to sit atop the rankings for a number of years due to the strength and diversity of their programming.”
He added “Ramadan has become – as it has been called – the month of drama, and this is the direction that all [television] producers focused their efforts in.