MBC closes the gap on Saudi TV’s ratings lead

The gap in TV ratings between the Middle East’s top TV channels has narrowed among Saudi Arabian viewers, new data seen by Campaign suggests.

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By  Tim Burrowes and Steve Wrelton Published  May 14, 2006

The gap in TV ratings between the Middle East’s top TV channels has narrowed among Saudi Arabian viewers, new data seen by Campaign suggests. Saudi TV’s STV1 remained in top spot during April, but MBC1 dramatically narrowed the gap as overall television viewing within the region increased by about 10% over the month. The ratings survey was carried out by Ipsos-Stat and is based on computer aided telphone calls with viewers who are questioned about what programmes they watch. However, major advertisers are currently campaigning for a move to an electronic metering method that would allow a greater amount of accuracy. But the CTV tracking survey remains the closest the region has to a media currency for television. With a population of around 24 million, Saudi Arabia is the key market for the Middle East’s satellite TV channels and advertisers. In the latest data, STV1 clocked up 210 ratings points, just 45 more than Arabic language channel MBC1. The previous gap had been 68 points. Meanwhile, third placed MBC2, which shows back-to-back movies, narrowed the gap on its sister station to just eight ratings points from the previous 15. Its high scores were driven by the popularity of its Lord of the Rings programming. MBC Group’s news channel Al Arabiya was in fourth place, with a score of 148 ratings points — an increase of 19 on the previous month. Some way back in fifth came Lebanon’s LBC. Peak viewing across the main channels was generally between 9pm and 11pm. Viewership across most channels was up during the month, with news channels the biggest beneficiary. Events such as the ups and downs of the Saudi stock market and the bombings in Egypt saw news channel ratings jump by about 20% during the month. News stations Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya enjoyed some of the biggest daily reach. In terms of daily reach, which refers to the percentage of the potential audience who tuned to a particular station at some point during a given day, STV1 was again top with a 32% score, followed by Al Arabiya (28%), MBC1 (27%) and MBC2 (21%). Al Jazeera was fifth with 17%. In terms of audience share by network, MBC enjoyed a share of 33%, followed by STV with 20%. Elie Khouri, regional managing director of OMD in the Middle East said that he attributed the rise in viewer numbers to a greater variety of quality programming across the different networks. “It’s difficult to say exactly what’s happening from month to month, TV is a very dynamic media and you have to keep tracking programmes all the time,” said Khouri. “What I know is that in the last month we’ve had a lot of new programmes coming on board that have been doing extremely well. “I think that the rise in viewers has been driven by the content and quality of programming – it’s natural that if you have better programmes you will get more viewers.” Meanwhile, the latest audience figures for the UAE suggest that MBC2 had the biggest share of audience with 7.5%, followed by Sharjah TV with 5.8% and Sama Dubai at 5.5%.

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