The recent announcement of cinema being allowed in Saudi by early 2018, after a gap of 35 years is a big step towards Kingdom opening up to the leisure and entertainment industry. Prior to this, an entire city dedicated to entertainment, cultural and sports activities was announced to be built in Al Quidiya. It will also have residential projects. Public Investment Fund has an initial working capital of $3 Billion to inject the much-needed reforms in the Kingdom’s entertainment and leisure industry. They are partnering with AMC Entertainment to establish a chain of cinemas in Saudi Arabia. Boosting investments in entertainment and leisure industry is key for Vision 2030 that seeks to diversify economy. The aim is to increase the GDP contribution by entertainment industry from 2.9% to 6%. Many organisations are being set up to support local artists across many art forms. House of Comedy in partnership with Blacklight Art that aims to provide a platform for aspiring and established artists in comedy.
Saudi Arabia is entertainment oriented and their social media usage rates are an indication of this. Compared to global average of 65%, 70% smartphone owners in Saudi Arabia claim to watch online video on social networks atleast once a week. Overall Saudi Arabia has the highest % of internet users who watch online video content @ 98% compared to 78% in USA. In 2016, YouTube launched “Mosalsalat” – a dedicated channel with 7000 hours of Arabic series, dating from 1962. Instagram and Snapchat – both platforms have grown exponentially in the past couple of years. As the market becomes more open to entertainment options – on-ground, on-TV and online, brands will have a wider choice of content plots to choose from. A Saudi girl band (Khamsa Adwaa) video became one of the top 5 trending videos, with 143 million views.
Brands can take advantage of the more ‘open’ society, but within the prescribed norms. Digital media could have a ‘bolder’ approach to content than the traditional media like Television and Print. Woman empowerment is a platform brands can adopt – be it simply in the way how a woman’s role is portrayed in content or offering an actual platform that can support them in achieving success. With more women expected to enter the work force when the driving ban is lifted, more products and services (apart from the obvious automobiles related ones) can be targeted to them.