COVID-19 has accelerated the shift towards digital revenues, requiring companies to change their business models to capture the growth in on-demand content
Our outlook for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is based on revenue data gathered as part of the Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2020-2024, PwC’s flagship five-year forecast covering 14 industry segments across 53 territories worldwide. We also carried out further data analysis to understand audience behaviour in the region and globally. In this report, the term MENA represents Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
COVID-19 has had an extraordinary impact on entertainment and media revenues1 and patterns of consumption in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), just as it has across the world. The damage to physical media spending – from cinema box office takings to concerts, corporate events and newspaper and magazine advertising – means revenues in the region are expected to fall by 8.3% to $19.7bn this year2.
We expect spending bounce back to gradually recover to 2019 based on a successful COVID-19 vaccine being widely available in the region, and to continue to grow from 2022 onwards. Overall, we expect entertainment and media revenues to increase by 3% in the region between 2019 and 2024, exceeding the 2% rise forecast globally3.
To a large degree, COVID-19 and its after-effects have pulled the future forward, as consumers in the region take more control of their own media consumption, faced with an ever-expanding range of channels and content. As a result, we expect a K-shaped recovery, with the industry split between areas that return to growth quickly and others that go through a lengthy downturn. Digital entertainment led by OTT video (‘over the top’ or streamed video services such as Netflix, Shahid and Starzplay), gaming and digital music will grow at an accelerated pace to 2024, while in-person events will continue to suffer until restrictions to curb the spread of the virus end, and physical newspaper and magazine sales will decline more steeply than pre-pandemic.
Crucially, these changes in consumer behaviour require media companies in the region to consider new digital business models such as subscriptions, leveraging direct relationships with consumers and monetising content rather than relying solely on advertising as they have done in the past. And while MENA already has some of the highest mobile phone usage in the world, with 4G accounting for a third of mobile connections4 and 5G already launched in some markets, governments must work to expand digital infrastructure such as high-speed broadband access, public and private clouds, data centres and content delivery networks to enable content streaming and new content consumption experiences at home and on the go.
In this report, we will look in more detail at the shift to digital entertainment and paid content, the new business models and infrastructure required to support this change, and what governments and regulators can do to support the evolution of the industry.
Digital revenue is expected to make up 42% of total entertainment and media revenue in MENA in 2020, up from 37% last year, and then to grow steadily to reach 46% of revenues by 2024. Globally, digital spending will account for the majority of revenue for the first time this year, reaching 51% of total revenue.
The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of streamed video content (OTT video) and music in the region, and boosted the popularity of online gaming even further.
Between February and March, when national lockdowns began, 50% of OTT video subscribers increased the amount of time they spent watching, for example5.
Subscription services such as Netflix, Shahid (owned by MBC) and Dubai-based Starzplay Arabia have added more local content as unique user numbers and hours spent watching both increased between 2019 and 2020.
This is creating a virtuous circle - OTT video revenues are expected to grow by 12.3% CAGR between 2019 and 2024, spurred by greater choice on both regional and international OTT video platforms. This also means OTT video services taking share from the pay-TV market, which is forecast to grow by just 0.6% in the same period.
MENA OTT developments
Increased consumption and launches
Online gaming enjoys tremendous popularity in the region, where people aged 24 and under make up close to half the population6, and lockdowns have given the industry a further boost. Gamers in MENA have spent 24% more time playing in 2020 than in 2019, compared with an 11% increase globally
As a result, video games revenue will increase by 8.1% CAGR in MENA between 2019 and 2024 to an estimated $4.1bn, outpacing the global increase of 6.4% CAGR and becoming the largest segment of the entertainment and media market in the region. Online and downloaded games continue to account for the vast majority of revenue, and are set to increase their market share from 83% in 2019 to 91% in 2024.
E-sports is still a very small part of entertainment and media spending, and during the pandemic the fledgling sector has been impacted by the absence of live events, at which audiences get together to watch star players battle it out. However e-sports revenue is expected to grow by 23.3% CAGR between 2019 and 2024 in the region, driven by increases in media rights, sponsorship, and digital advertising.
Digital audio – both streamed or downloaded music and podcasts - has been another beneficiary of captive lockdown audiences. In 2020, Anghami reported a 25% increase in music listeners, compared with 2019. Parallely, the number of podcast listeners is expected to increase 30% between 2020-2021.
Digital audio revenues will increase by 19.8% CAGR in the region between 2019 and 2024, although they will still account for a smaller share of the overall music market (32% by 2024)7, compared with physical audio, driven by radio. Podcast advertising is at a very early stage in the region, but we expect it to show rapid growth of 24.4% CAGR to 2024.
Podcasts advertising is a rapidly emerging revenue line in digital audio
In light of these changes in consumer habits and spending, entertainment and media companies in the region must adapt their business models to capitalise on areas of higher growth. The advertising market is expected to grow at 1.4% CAGR to 2024, while consumer-paid revenues will grow by 3.5% CAGR over the same period.
Within ad spending, 42% of revenues will come from digital ads by 2024. Mobile advertising is already one of the most widely used channels in the region, because of the high levels of mobile phone use.
Review and test new content distribution channels to keep pace with consumer habits, e.g. newspapers offering podcasts hosted by popular columnists.
Build scale through geographic expansion across the region as well as a robust local content inventory to remain competitive against global digital media players. Scale is needed to offset the ongoing rise in content costs.
Reduce reliance on purely advertising-funded media by building a direct-to consumer platform that can either be subscription based or a mix between advertising and subscription content (e.g. Shahid by MBC). Consumers have adopted paid-content models at an accelerated pace during COVID-19 lockdowns.
Deploy acquisitions and strategic partnerships to build the required skills in the fastest growing and emerging revenue streams.
Work closely with and support local governments to design relevant digital regulations and define the role of industry in their execution.
An essential enabler to support the growth of digital media and entertainment is sufficient digital infrastructure to allow consumers to watch, play and listen to online content from anywhere. Some countries in the region have already made significant investments in this area – in Saudi Arabia, the government and private sector has spent $15bn on ICT infrastructure since 2017 and as a result, the entire country has internet coverage. Saudi Arabia was also one of the first countries to offer commercial 5G services8.
Across the region as a whole, high-speed home broadband coverage is low, ranging from 3% of the population in some countries to 40% in others (excluding the UAE and Qatar where the proportion is higher). The lack of coverage has been offset by widely available, high quality 4G and new investments in 5G. However, investment is still required to provide high-speed broadband to the broader population at affordable prices and expand coverage in rural areas. Improving distribution capabilities, upgrading service providers’ system capabilities, and expanding content distribution networks are all necessary to support the growth of digital media and entertainment services.
In contrast to the global outlook, cinema box office revenues are a bright spot for the region – revenue is expected to grow by 4% CAGR to $1bn in MENA between 2019 and 2024, compared with a 2.4% decline worldwide. This is mainly due to Saudi Arabia lifting its cinema ban in 2018, which has created a sizable new market.
COVID-19 has of course caused a decline in 2020 - cinema admissions in the region dropped from 120 million to 48 million between 2019 and 2020 as a result of lockdowns and social distancing9. However box office revenue is expected to recover by 2022 and to continue to grow.
We see the potential for 2,600 cinema screens in Saudi Arabia by 203010, and expect box office revenue in the country to reach $180m by 202411. International chains including AMC, Cinépolis and Vox are already establishing a presence there.
…it will continue to drive MENA’s cinema growth story vs. global markets, despite the setback from COVID
The generational shift in the entertainment and media landscape in favour of digital content has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on consumer habits. This requires media and entertainment companies, both local and international, to transform their business models to keep pace with new audience expectations and to consider developing an optimal mix of ad-funded and consumer-paid revenues. It also requires government and regulatory support to expand the necessary digital infrastructure, and to ensure regulation protects consumers without stifling innovation.
1 The industry segments covered by the GEMO are: traditional TV and home video; OTT video; internet access; newspaper and consumer magazines; out-of-home (OOH) advertising; business-to-business; video games and esports; virtual reality (VR); TV advertising; cinema; consumer books; music, radio and podcasts, and internet advertising.
2 Global Entertainment & Media Outlook. 2020 - 2024. PwC
3 Global Entertainment & Media Outlook. 2020 - 2024. PwC
5 Campaign Middle East edition
6 Unicef, “MENA Generation 2030,” April 2019: https://data.unicef.org/resources/middle-east-north-africageneration-2030/
7 The overall music market includes recorded music, radio and podcasts
9 PwC Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2020-2024
11 PwC Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2020-2024
Digital Consulting Partner, PwC Middle East
Senior manager, Strategy& Middle East
Senior associate, Strategy& Middle East