The demand for Arabic content is on the rise
Content on the web is often assumed to be all in English, even though it is spoken by just 20 percent of the world’s population. On the other hand, 420 million people, i.e. 5.6 percent of the 7.5 billion people on earth, speak Arabic; while estimated suggest that arabic content makes 3 percent on the world wide web.
Percentage wise, this might not seem like a big deal. However, seeing that the world is becoming more diverse, and people in the Middle East — the majority of whom Arabic and are surfing the web thanks to high smartphone penetration in the market — there is a huge market opportunity for Arabic content.
This gap is being plugged by startups who are steadily gaining traction and investments in the market, some of which include:
Mawdoo3 from Jordan: Provides users with credible Arabic content from trustworthy sources.
Anghami from Lebanon: Music streaming mobile app that enables users to play and download Arabic and international songs offline.
Starz Play from the UAE: Video-on-demand platform that offers films, Hollywood series, and documentaries for children, as well as Arabic content.
Jamalon from Jordan: Online bookstore in the Middle East offering Arabic and English titles with home delivery and customized payment methods.
Vezeeta from Egypt: Digital healthcare platform that connects patients with healthcare providers and health services.
Altibbi from the UAE: Largest digital health platform in the Arab World, including 1.5 million pages of medical content and a 24/7 telehealth service.
Ureed from the UAE: An Arabic language marketplace that enables companies to hire translators, Arabic writers and more.
Lamsa from Saudi Arabia: Provides digital content tailored for children
On a broader scale of video content, international players such as Netflix and Amazon are also entering the space with Arabic drama series. Moreover, the video on-demand market is increasingly getting crowded with local players such as Icflix, Starz Play, Iflix, Wavo and beIN giving stiff competition to the American counterparts. MBC Group has also been ramping up its Arabic video-on-demand platform.
According to Digital TV Research, subscriptions to video-on-demand services are expected to more than double in the MENA region between 2018 and 2024.
With the world becoming more diverse and increasing number of people going online and consuming content, platforms that cater to the Arabic-speaking audience have huge potential to grow, as many of the above firms have proven.
However, to enable the market to produce good Arabic content and grow the ecosystem, Her Excellency Maryam Eid AlMheiri – Director General of Abu Dhabi Government Media Office and Chief Executive Officer, Media Zone Authority – Abu Dhabi and twofour54 told Communicate, “If we are to foster quality Arabic content creation, we need to build and reinforce a sustainable media sector.”
She added, “This requires three pillars: nurturing a talent pool by developing local talent and attracting regional and international expertise; investing in an infrastructure, soft and hard, which will enable content creators to create; and building an ecosystem that encourages partnerships and collaboration.”