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Power Essays 2022: Be where the content is – by MMS’ Ahmed Al Sahhaf

MMS’s CEO, Ahmed Al Sahhaf, delves into MBC’s consumer research to see who is consuming what programming, and on what platforms

Ahmed Al Sahhaf, CEO of MBC Media Solutions

As the new normal seems to settle our lives into a systematic pace, we are realising on a daily basis the irreversible changes the last few years had on the media and entertainment industry – especially the way people consume content.

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As a result, content is evolving to fit these new behaviours with new and diverse formats from platforms that currently exist in the market, giving brands multiple advertising opportunities that weren’t accessible before.

It is evident by now that successful advertising depends on the ability of brands to market to consumers across a spectrum of media channels. Reach remains key.

Our fast-moving environment, coupled with easy access to content on the go, means people are multitasking, watching TV while on social media platforms or listening to their favourite music while surfing the web.

Viewers are increasingly engaging with content across multiple devices, providing brands with countless opportunities to amplify reach and expand marketing efforts to reach customers at every touch point.

Establishing a loyal audience by meeting viewers’ needs for premium content – as MBC Group has done over the past 30 years – means viewers will watch wherever the content lives.

Millions of viewers across the Arab world tune in to MBC Group’s channels because of their premium and diverse content that features their favourite stars. This contributes to the group’s high retention rates. On average, MBC Group retains 95 per cent of its audience month-on-month, and for Ramadan, retention is about 96 per cent (Ramadan 2022 vs. Ramadan 2021), according to MBC data.

This is evident when we look at how our viewers have embraced viewing content on MBC Group’s video-on-demand platform Shahid, where they are watching and binge-watching more content across all genres. Binge sessions (when a person watches three or more episodes of the same show) are up 41 per cent since the beginning of March this year, based on the great titles shown exclusively on Shahid. We’re also seeing a higher frequency of viewing as 13 per cent more viewers tuned into Shahid every single day.

The same is true for social media and radio: MBC Group has amassed more than 613 million loyal followers across its social media platforms. Meanwhile, 9.5 million listeners tune in weekly to MBC FM and MBC Panorama.

Maintaining audience loyalty boils down to listening to viewers’ needs and constantly evolving with each new generation; meeting their interests, hobbies and behaviours.

One of the top reasons people turn to social is to discover something new; there is an increased desire for variety and discovery, and we can see this on Shahid, which records a tremendous diversity of viewing.

On average, Shahid viewers watch seven different titles in a given week. This is an increase of 22 per cent compared with the same time last year.

Our data also shows that 43 per cent started a new show that they hadn’t seen before, and 41 per cent finally started that series they’ve been meaning to watch.

While there is an evident desire to discover and watch new content, we have viewers also seeking relatable and nostalgic content to give them a sense of comfort, entertainment and at times even escapism from a difficult day.

Audiences are looking for content that is more relatable and personable, which is why we are noticing a shift towards local productions that audiences can relate to, as well as comforting, feel-good shows.

We found that many Shahid viewers are turning to comforting shows like Anisa Farah, Wsh Wahr and Mawdoo’ A’Ali, with 38 per cent saying they’ve rewatched a favourite TV series and one third saying they’ve rewatched a favourite movie.

Our behavioural data supports that claim, and we’re seeing shows climb back up the ranks as viewers make their way through their ‘been meaning to watch this’ list.

The same is true on social media, where clips from old shows, are currently witnessing an increase in the number of views, years after their launch on TV.

Interactivity is also important for viewers, and social media platforms have a central role to play in connectivity, as engaging audiences through social media makes sure that people are tuned in.

We have renewed our partnerships with social media platforms including Snapchat and Twitter to make MBC Group’s premium content available for brands to leverage, especially as recent studies are finding that consumers are increasingly becoming more receptive to digital and mobile ads.

When it comes to sports, nothing beats live TV. We’ve recently renewed our partnership with the Saudi Sports Company (SSC) network of TV and digital channels for the coming three years, making us their sole advertising representative for a second year in a row.

Our insights support the importance of live TV for viewers, as they indicate that some matches reach a 52 per cent share of audience in the Kingdom and 40 per cent of Saudi households.

The viewer’s desire to watch sports live is not only limited to TV but also transcends to Shahid where users have access to live streaming of TV content and sports, giving them the ability to watch wherever they are.

At MMS, our goal is to continue providing solutions that rely on content excellence, data-driven thinking and partnership-led solutions, and to help brands attain their goals through leveraging MBC Group’s ecosystem.

Our team of experts focus on quality and relevant content and cross-platform strategies, which gives our clients an advantage as we deliver on innovative and creative solutions that engage with our audiences.