The Holy Month of Ramadan is a special time of the year, when consumer behaviour changes across several spectrums. From spending to working hours and most specifically consumption of content. Having lived in the UAE for more than 12 years, I have witnessed a major change across all industries, which has allowed the adaptation of technology in a big way. Content personalisation has become easier, which means you are engaging the right audience with the type of content they want to see. The power of personalisation.

Like with almost every other sector worldwide, seismic shifts in user behaviour have been observed towards video streaming platforms after the pandemic. While the world is returning to normalcy with cinemas and other entertainment outlets now open for the public, streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and MCB group’s Shahid are seeing a massive uptick in viewership numbers. Across the MENA region, these numbers increase even further during Ramadan as specifically designed TV series, comedy shows and programmes are launched that target Arab viewers during the month.

Why the Ramadan surge?

With shorter working hours during Ramadan and more relaxation to account for the fasting population, people usually have more time during the Holy Month. Most people enjoy shows during the sundown meal of Iftar or the pre-dawn Suhoor meal.

Platforms like MBC’s Shahid are creating top-class content that caters specifically to Arabic-speaking audiences throughout the MENA region and beyond. A full range of titles released specifically for Ramadan is also one reason for unusual spikes in video streaming during the Holy Month.

The OTT (over-the-top) platforms are also creating more diversified content. The meteoric rise of Shahid showcases the Arab audience’s need for diverse storytelling with social and cultural topics that link to the Arab culture context. This trend has been observed by other on-demand video streaming platforms such as Netflix and Starzplay, which are also vying for attention and readily creating original Arab productions to make use of the market’s changing dynamics.

Switch to online streaming – the knockout blow?

According to YouGov’s Global Media Outlook Report, which covered 17 markets including the UAE, it was found that consumers are highly interested in video on demand compared with other types of paid-for content services. In fact, 36 per cent of those surveyed currently subscribe to and intend to stick with paying for VOD services in 2023 as well.

Web streaming services are delivering knockout blows to traditional TV. These services continue to ramp up high-quality original productions, keep adding massive numbers of new viewers and subscribers, and take away audiences from cinemas and traditional TV while delivering better overall experiences.

Even with cinemas opening again, watching OTT content has turned into more of a convenient habit and a daily routine. Also, unlike linear TV, streaming services provide a large variety of content for viewers to watch anytime and from anywhere. Streaming online video in HD means subscribers are able to enjoy a cinema experience in a safe environment.

Ramadan – the peak season for Arab TV viewers

Ramadan is generally a peak TV season for Arab audiences. Most OTT services in the Middle East try to lure new subscribers with special Ramadan releases.

For Arab families, Ramadan offers the perfect time to gather, fast, pray and watch TV. This viewership, which is now shifting towards OTT platforms, greatly increases during the Holy Month when compared with other months. Combine this with viewership stats that hit the roof during the pandemic, and you have numbers that are unprecedented.

Traditionally, channels launched new programmes and TV series in anticipation of high-user engagement during the Holy Month, but that trend has now been adopted by OTT platforms. Multiple competitors now launch well-thought-out and planned programmes aimed at families and individuals during the month of Ramadan. And, while the trend is still relatively new across OTT platforms, there is no doubt that with the fast increasing subscriber base of these platforms, this will become the new face of TV viewing in the years to come in Ramadan and beyond.

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