Arabic TV channels are more popular during Ramadan than at other times of the year, said a Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) report based on a region-wide study. The report states that Ramadan is an important time for television in the Middle East, with a surge in all television viewing, particularly Arabic series.
The study, Media Industries in the Middle East, 2016, a cooperative effort between NU-Q and the Doha Film Institute (DFI), was released earlier this year and it pointed to a general expansion of channels and offerings across all sectors, including broadcast, print, and digital media. The report showed that new content also tended to represent a wider variety, created by a broader diversity of content producers.
At five major stations in the report’s focus countries, almost half of the programming consisted of scripted material – that is about three times more than other months. Among the non-scripted programs, those with a religious theme become more important.
The media industry report noted that television stations in the region prepare significantly for the Ramadan season and often broadcast a new episode every day, rather than once a week; however, the share of reruns versus first-run shows is also larger during Ramadan as channels show reruns on the same day so viewers can catch missed episodes of newly released series.
The report delved into 11 separate media sectors, including television, magazines, radio, religious TV and TV programming during Ramadan. In the chapter on Ramadan, the report found that on five top free-to-air, general interest channels three-quarters of all programs shown during Ramadan are scripted, compared to about half during the rest of the year. Drama is also mentioned as the most popular category. Prayers and religious programs also increase substantially, accounting for an average of eight hours of programming per week during Ramadan, versus two hours during non-Ramadan months.
Joe Khalil, associate professor in residence at Northwestern noted today that events surrounding the migrant and refugee status for many Syrians has qualitatively transformed the Ramadan drama offerings this year across the region – offering creative and technical skills to Egyptian, Lebanese and Gulf productions.
In addition, he said, that while dubbed and original series continue to be produced, “Gulf-produced children and adult animation shows have also become a regular feature of Ramadan offerings with a significant broadcast and online followers.”