Saudi Report 2021: Driving change, by MBC Media Solutions’ Ahmed Al Sahhaf

Ahmed Al Sahhaf, CEO of MMS, explains how MBC’s new commercial arm will leverage the broadcast and streaming giant’s power in the kingdom.

Five years into Vision 2030 and we are already observing a tangible and diverse growth in the public sector’s operating models, economy and society as a whole.

We have witnessed 46 million visitors take part in more than 2,000 entertainment, cultural and sporting events in the kingdom. The Private Investment Fund grew to an approximate SAR 1.5 trillion and non-oil government revenue increased by nearly 122 per cent in the last five years to SAR 369bn in 2020.

The kingdom has achieved a monumental transformation all across-the-board and these great strides are attributed to the unprecedented social reforms, and the clear vision put in place by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

All these developments have created change in consumer behaviour, which gave brands endless opportunities to connect with their current and new consumers.

As the country continues to take effective measures to control the spread of the coronavirus, and as the kingdom focuses on expanding non-oil revenues such as entertainment, tourism, media and much more, brands are looking to further enhance their position in the market to resonate better in consumers’ minds and hearts.

This is especially evident amongst Saudi government entities that are utilising various platforms to communicate the goals and projects of Vision 2030 to its people and the world.

Areas of opportunity

A report by Emerging Markets Intelligence and Research from February 2021 outlined several positive opportunities that include: government projects related to Vision 2030; the National Transformation Plan; education; healthcare; entertainment; housing; tourism; privatisation; e-commerce; and much more.

This is especially true when it comes to the entertainment and tourism sector. Cinemas reopening and entertainment events kicking off pose opportunities for brands to connect with their audiences. The Saudi government’s plan to invest more on entertainment in the coming 10 years presents further opportunities for the industry at large.

It is also worth noting that Saudi Arabia ranked first in the Arab world and 21st worldwide last year in the Happiness Index, increasing 16 ranks since the beginning of Vision 2030.

Role of TV

When it comes to media consumption, Saudi newspaper Okaz stated that not so long ago there were endless restrictions on television broadcasts, yet nowadays the Kingdom has become among the top 10 countries in the world in mobile internet speeds. In a short period of time, the number of homes connected to the optical fibre network heavily grew from 1 million to 3.5 million.

Data also showed that terrestrial TV is still thriving in Saudi Arabia, with set-top-box data showing that in 2021
TV is reaching 84 per cent of the total Saudi population on a monthly basis.

On the level of MBC GROUP, TV reaches an average of around 53 per cent (10.24 million) of Saudi individuals aged 15 and over daily and owns an audience share of about 44 per cent from the Saudi landscape.

At MMS, MBC Group’s commercial arm, we have noticed a healthy and consistent growth in TV investments, with clients revitalising their marketing campaigns.

MMS’s focus on the Saudi market

There are notable opportunities in the Saudi market with increasing demand from clients and opportunity for growth across all sectors including government and SMEs, both of which are growing rapidly in recent years.

To meet this demand, MMS has put in place a category-focused team in Saudi Arabia.

MMS structures its talent to best cater to both agencies and clients in a symbiotic manner, with two teams servicing agencies and three teams servicing clients divided by sectors.

These teams work together to ensure there is one voice, one solution and one approach towards the brands and businesses we cater to.

Instead of the usual industry sectors, MMS has categorised the client teams based on how consumers make buying decisions adapting to the continuous consumer forces.

With their institutional knowledge and expertise, the team aims to service clients and guide them on how to access MBC Group platforms to leverage on the integrated solution-oriented approach we have developed.

Data-driven solutions

With our proposition, which includes data accuracy, scale and quality relevant content, we believe MBC Group is uniquely positioned to deliver on our client’s performance goals. We are planning on continuing to drive in-content opportunities to deliver more innovative and creative solutions that engage with audiences.

MMS offers integrated solutions across MBC Group’s television, audio, digital, social, and video-on-demand (VOD) platforms. We depend on the latest data measurement technologies to provide data-driven solutions, which is something new to the industry.

With more accurate data between both linear TV and digital VOD, we are able to see one version of our consumers and understand exactly what works and what does not work.

This has strongly influenced the innovations that we are working towards to ensure benefit to both the advertiser and the viewer. Some of these solutions revolve around advanced investment technologies, enhanced performance solutions and more contextually precise targeting.

Advertisers are asking for accurate and timely measurements that ensure transparency and quantify return to ensure that each ad dollar invested is even more accountable. To achieve this, we made a standardised measurement framework and reporting system available to the industry, along with other new solutions that will be rolled out in the near future.

MMS is currently gathering data through MBC Group’s set of TV boxes in Saudi, which is reported daily on a minute-by-minute basis for content and second-by-second for commercial breaks, allowing advertisers to know precisely what is working for them and what is not.

MMS also overlays TV data with data from Shahid, the Group’s VOD offering, providing clients with a unique and better representation of household and individual consumers in a much more realistic and uninterrupted manner.

Providing these solutions helps clients better plan their marketing strategies and foresee future opportunities to achieve outcomes that deliver on their expectations.

Branded Integration

Apart from viewership growth, we are working closer with our clients to understand their challenges and offer them multiple solutions across the Group to increase their exposure.

With the strong content line-up, which continues to attract audiences, brands are keener and keener to be associated with key programmes.

Additionally, because of the pandemic, we are able to attract new categories of clients that have not leveraged TV in the past, which is helping growth in TV investments. Furthermore, MMS’s branded content team is providing our clients with integrated branded content solutions to seamlessly deliver key desired messages in an unobtrusive way and without interruption because we believe in the power of branded content solutions.

Branded content offers a more consumer-centric approach compared with traditional advertising, where the focus is not on the product being sold, but on the value offered to the customer. Studies have found that – when done right – this approach is more effective than traditional advertising as it amplifies a brand’s values and therefore resonates more effectively and achieves high engagement levels with the consumer.

We offer integrated audio solutions to cover every touchpoint, ensuring consumers see all angles of the content and engage with it seamlessly, providing brands with organic opportunities to interact with their target audiences, whether on the go or at home.

Other non-intrusive formats can be found on Shahid where we have introduced –for the first time in MENA –native formats that look and feel seamless to the browsing experience using Pause Ads. These digital static ads appear when a user pauses the show, so they do not interrupt his or her viewing experience.


Shahid, MBC Group’s VOD platform, is currently the MENA’s number one premium video service, reaching up to 25 million users in Ramadan and 9 million users in other months and beating competition’s viewership numbers.
As MBC Group continues to provide premium content and produce high-end Arabic originals, these numbers are expected to increase. This will provide an attractive opportunity for clients to work with our MMS teams to find the best way to position their brands within this VOD platform.

We are continuously working on enhancing Shahid’s offering to include innovative ad formats that can only be found on integrations into our Shahid Originals. Our offerings include more advanced targeting, as one would
expect from a leading digital platform.

Our goal is to continue providing a platform that draws engaged viewers that advertisers can target through premium Arabic content, which brands can be a part of.

This can be achieved by having a strong customer value proposition and defining what we aim to offer in the market across three pillars: content excellence, data-driven thinking and partnership-led solutions.

We are diversifying our offering to our clients across all MBC GRoup platforms and we are focusing on
diverse talent from sales to data scientists, underpinned by processes and automation.

We look forward to being part of enhancing the landscape in Saudi Arabia by supporting brands through our various media solutions and offerings.

Read Campaign’s complete Saudi Report 2021 here.