With more than 100 series created for Ramadan this year, there is a rise in drama for GCC audiences, possibly related to KSA's recent media reforms. A table, based on mena.tv research, shows the top marketed dramas this season, and the channels that have acquired the broadcast rights.
In what is now an annual ritual at BroadcastPro ME, Heba Korayem, Head of Broadcaster Relations at ChannelSculptor and Client Director for the mena.tv Content Hub, gives us her analysis on genres and shows trending during the month of Ramadan.
This Ramadan, millions of people in the Arab world will return to familiar annual rituals, spending the majority of their time performing good deeds: fasting, praying, charity. And watching Musalsalat.
With the possible exception of the FIFA World Cup this year, Ramadan is the most important event in the MENA TV industry calendar. People spend 67% more time in front of their TV screen (or OTT screen for the younger crowd). Advertisers recognise the surge in the eyeballs and seek a piece of the action, and as a result, 30% of annual ad spend happens during Ramadan. Broadcasters compete to get a bigger chunk of that 30%, and consequently big TV networks end up spending almost half of their annual budget on filling their Ramadan grids with unique content that will appeal to every gender and every age group.
30% of annual ad spend happens during Ramadan … and consequently big TV networks end up spending almost half of their annual budget on filling their Ramadan grids with unique content
Why is there such an emphasis on series during Ramadan? The main objective could be viewer retention. Typically, a Ramadan Musalsal is a 30-day, 45-minute drama series, usually with a level of suspense that guarantees the same audience returns to the same channel at the same time every day of Ramadan. The result: an Arabic population that knows the words to that repetitive Pepsi ad by heart.
Slightly more than 100 series have been created for Ramadan this year. The leading genre is Social Drama, followed by Comedy. From the three prominent viewer categories in the Middle East (Egyptian, Levant and Gulf), 40% of the series produced are in Egyptian Arabic, 28% appeal to Khaleeji (Gulf) audiences, and 23% come from Levant (mainly Syria, but also from Lebanon and Jordan). The remaining 10% can be attributed to biographical, historical and animated religious series in classical Arabic.–
The table below, based on mena.tv research, shows the top marketed dramas this season, and the channels that have acquired the broadcast rights:
|Arabic Title||English Translation||Dialect||Channels where the show is airing|
|Abrat Share’e||Street Lesson||Gulf||Dubai TV, Al Rai, MBC Drama, OSN Ya Hala, Kuwait TV|
|Etr El Rouh||Soul Scent||Gulf||OSN Ya Hala, Dubai TV, Kuwait TV, MBC Drama, ATV, Sharjah TV|
|Abo Omar el Masri||Abo Omar Al Masri||Egypt||ON E, ON Drama, MBC1, Ro’ya, OSN Ya Hala|
|Awalem Khafiyya||Invisible Worlds||Egypt||CBC, SBC|
|Bel Hagm El A’aely||Family Size||Egypt||DMC, DMC Drama, SBC, Alfa, Zee Alwan|
|El Haiba El Awda||“The Status” part 2||Levant||MTV Lebanon, MBC 1, Al Soumariya, Ro’ya|
|Julia||Julia||Levant||LDC, LBC, Zee Alwan, Rotana Drama|
|Kalabsh 2||Handcuffs 2||Egypt||ON E, Al Hayat, MBC, Al Dhafra, OSN Ya Hala|
|Ladayna Akwalon Okhra||Further Comments||Egypt||SBC, Alfa|
|Layali Ojeeni||Ojeeni Nights||Egypt||CBC, Dubai TV, OSN Ya Hala|
|Ma’a Hessa Qalam||Hessa has a pen||Gulf||Dubai TV, Sharjah TV, Kuwait TV|
|Tango||Tango||Levant||LDC, Hawas TV, Rotana Drama|
|Tareeq||A Path||Levant||OSN Ya Hala, Roya TV, MBC1, MTV Lebanon|
Compared with the numbers from Ramadan 2017, we see a decrease in the number of Egyptian Musalsalat produced for Ramadan, and a rise in the ones created for Gulf audiences. This change might well relate to Saudi Arabias recent media reforms.
However, there is another more striking trend over recent years: quality amongst the Egyptian and Levant producers is increasing dramatically. Last year, the hit Lebanese Series Al Haiba broke new ground in script and story quality. The hit show in the previous year was an Egyptian drama Grand Hotel based on a Spanish format featuring a compelling story and high production values. Both these titles have since gained popularity in international content markets.
Better scripts and higher production values come at a cost, and with ever more high-quality dramas being produced for Ramadan, MENA producers need to tap into new revenues. International markets outside MENA could provide a solution: platforms such as Netflix have already demonstrated interest in taking strong Arabic content outside the region. New initiatives such as the mena.tv Content Hub are also showcasing high quality shows to international distributors.
The Ramadan season has just begun, and speculation on the internet is never-ending. Viewers want to talk about which show will be the big hit this year the winner. Which shows will record highest viewer minutes? Which ones are most likely to be exported to international audiences first? Well look at the data after Ramadan!