Is linear TV on its way out?

Zenith’s Wael Kantar explains how resilient the format is, even in the face of Video on Demand (VOD)

In one of the most digitally connected regions, questions are being asked about the future of linear television and what will it hold, considering the continuous changes in media consumption.

You would expect that with the roaring success of Video on Demand (VOD) streaming, we would gradually see the demise of linear TV. In fact, analysts started talking about it since the VOD services has accelerated in the region – and yet a few years later, the linear TV impact remains remarkably high.

There is no doubt that with a digital penetration close to 100 per cent in the GCC markets, and an internet speed ranking among the top 10 globally in our key markets, VOD services are booming driven by a high convenience and Linear TV is gradually losing viewership.

Today, we are witnessing a drop in linear TV viewership by 20 per cent compared to 5 years ago, the highest amongst the younger age bracket of 18 to 30 years old. We are seeing more advertisers coping with the behavioural changes, gradually and carefully shifting efforts to digital. In fact, TV advertising investments dropped by 11 per cent compared to 5 years ago.


TV advertising still drives a high impact on brand health metrics

Despite the behavioural shift, today’s research still accentuating the power of TV and its high impact across the consumer journey with uplifts of 10 per cent to 15 per cent on awareness, consideration, and favourability.

TV remains one of the most cost-efficient platforms to reach the mass

Advertising on TV remains among the most cost-efficient even compared to digital, driven by a superior frequency and a spillover of the main satellite channels on the entire GCC and levant markets.

Attention to TV ads remains at all time high

In a mobile driven era where the average human is getting bombarded by more than 8,000 ads a day and an attention span dropping to less than 8 seconds, attention to TV ads remains at an all-time high exceeding digital platforms by 30 per cent according to a lumen study.

Linear TV is not dead yet as it keeps finding ways to reinvent itself. From global big formats adapted locally such as Top Chef or Shark Tank to live events such as Riyadh Season. From programmes featuring well-known digital influencers to exclusive drama series featuring top Arab celebrities, all avant premiering on Linear TV before being available on AVOD.

Adapting to change

Today, with the rise of video on demand and its convenience, there is no doubt that the TV screen is no longer a linear TV alone. Audiences who do not stream online TV dropped by 46 per cent in 2023 vs. 2019 and time spent on VOD streaming grew by 70 per cent.

Subscription video on demand is expected to grow by 71 per cent in 2027 vs. 2022 and watch time on YouTube connected TV grew by 77 per cent this year in KSA

2022 was like no other in the Video on Demand category in MENA: Disney+ launched in the region, OSN rebranded to OSN+ and positioned itself as the exclusive home of HBO, Prime Video was advertising its content for the first time, BeIn Sports launched its streaming platform TOD TV, and Shahid made its premium content available on the free video on demand platform to grow its inventory.

Today we are also seeing major TV networks with exclusive sports rights dropping their partnerships with telecom operators in the GCC markets to boost their VOD subscriptions.

Huge efforts are being made in the VOD industry to win the TV screen war and one of the key drivers is local content, especially in KSA. Netflix and Prime Video have both heavily invested behind local productions.

Disney+ is putting efforts behind dubbing their classics and Turkish drama portfolios to Arabic. Starzplay is partnering with Watch it, the Leading Egyptian streaming player to bring the best in class local content. All efforts are aiming to fight the monopoly of Shahid, the all-time king of local productions.

Advertising opportunities across VOD are growing – Shahid, VIU, Weyyak and many more are open to advertisers, Netflix & Disney+ launched their ad tier plan in Europe and might be available soon in the region.

VOD is growing massively with all players fighting for more share of a market with endless potential, and it is gradually affecting the linear TV viewership who may be on its way out one day, but not today.

From an advertisers perspective, it is not one way or the other. Both TV and VOD can work synergistically to complement each other to reach a broader spectrum of viewers and enhance the overall campaign impact.

By Wael Kantar, Associate Business Director, Zenith