Confusion surrounds TV Ramadan ratings in KSA

Disarray surrounds the television ratings for the first four days of Ramadan after research body Ipsos-Stat issued data on the top 100 programmes to some clients, only to withdraw it following enquiries from Campaign.

The data showed that more than 50% of viewers in Saudi Arabia tuned into MBC1's comedy show Tash ma Tash during the first week of Ramadan, and that six of the top 10 shows were broadcast by MBC1.

Mohammed al Mulhelm, group director of marketing , PR and commercial for MBC, told Campaign that he was delighted with the ratings. "It has never happened before. We are proud to have the highest reach," he said.

But Bilal Kaissi, managing director of Ipsos-Stat KSA, later issued a letter stating that the figures were "preliminary data, not designated for publication". He said the figures were based on initial grids that were later modified by some stations.

Ramadan is a vital month for broadcasters, as advertisers seek to target families who gather around the television after sunset. It is traditionally an important battle ground for pan-Arab broadcasters such as MBC, Saudi TV, LBC and Dubai TV.

Tash ma Tash, which is broadcast daily after Iftar during the Holy Month, scored an unprecedented rating of 53.4 during the first four days of Ramadan, according to Ipsos-Stat's data.

It has been running for 14 seasons and used to air on the state-owned Saudi TV, but was snapped up by MBC in 2005. Its storylines have covered issues that some consider controversial, including marital relations and religion.

MBC1's Khaled bin al Waleed and Ghashamsham were the second and third highest rated programmes, according to the withdrawn research, with reach of 22.1 and 20.8 respectively. The highest rating programme for Saudi TV, and seventh overall, was comedy series Abou Shallakh.

In his letter, Kaissi said that Ipsos-Stat would be subsequently issuing two weeks of Ramadan ratings that would be "more robust".

"This release would be based on the programmes that were actually on air during the same period," he said.

Meanwhile, research by media agency MindShare has found that viewership in Saudi Arabia increased to more than 70% at 6.30pm during the first four days of Ramadan, compared to 20% during the daytime. It also found that MBC1 had the biggest peak at this time among general entertainment channels, followed by Saudi TV1.

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