An increasing number of listeners in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are turning off their radios and logging on to stream their music and videos instead, according to a new YouGov Omnibus survey.
Almost a third of those surveyed said they have increased the frequency with which they listen to music via online streaming services compared to 12 months ago.
The shift to online is placing pressure on conventional radio stations to “diversify to maintain consumer engagement in future,” said Kerry McLaren, head of Omnibus Research, in a statement.
A third of consumers in Saudi Arabia claimed to listen to the radio less than they did 12 months ago, while 28 percent of UAE listeners said they were tuning in less, according to the survey.
“Kids still listen to radio when in the car. Other than that we mostly stream content (podcasts, audiobooks, videos, music),” one Abu Dhabi-based dad tweeted Arab News.
Dubai-based blogger Hind Mezaina told Arab News she preferred to stream content because the English-speaking radio stations in the UAE lacked diversity.
“I’d like to listen to the radio but it’s the same old music and the five new songs on all channels. DJs that are mostly white and pretend only white people live here/listen to them,” she said, adding that topics being discussed are often “dumbed down.”
Satish Mayya, CEO at the Dubai-based media buyer BPG Maxus, said that radio stations are already rising to meet the challenge of increased streaming activity.
“Big radio networks had already started developing their own online streaming platforms in an effort to capture migrating audience,” he said, adding that the trend has yet to dramatically affect advertising strategies.
“Radio is still widely used by brands across categories for tactical and promotional campaigns and even sometimes to support new launches,” he said.
Raed Zidan, co-owner of Shock Middle East which owns the UAE’s first dance music station Dance FM 97.8, is also optimistic about the future of radio in the UAE.
“The UAE has one of the highest listenership in the world as people spend more time than the average compared to other countries in their cars.
“Typically where radio compete against streaming is by offering shows like Breakfast and Drive as people head and come back from their work, those shows are typically entertaining and offer lots of information about whats going on in the city and the country they live in,” he said.
The YouGov survey also found that a third of those surveyed said they were streaming more video content than they did a year before. Around 29 percent across both countries said they watched videos on platforms that did not require payment or a subscription.
Demand for streamed movie content is growing rapidly in Saudi Arabia. The subscriber base of Star Play, a streaming site, has been doubling every six months since it launched two and a half years ago in the Kingdom, according to co-founder Danny Bates.
“Our highest content consumption rates per month are coming from Saudi customers,” he told Arab News last month. He added that action and comedy were the most popular genres among subscribers in the Kingdom.