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Saudi Round-Up: Collaboration for Global Transformation

Weekly Roundups

13 Dec 2023

AstroLabs Team

This week’s round-up encompasses the major movements in international agreements and the economy, aviation, fintech, travel & tourism, and sustainability, with a spotlight on Saudi’s leading role in the 28th meeting of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP28).

In a move that promises to accelerate Saudi Arabia’s media industry, Augustus Media has joined forces with Saudi’s Ministry of Investment and Ministry of Communications and Information Technology’s Ignite programme. The publisher of Lovin Saudi, originally began its journey at AstroLabs in Dubai in 2017, and was among the first companies we expanded to Saudi Arabia in 2019.

Richard Fitzgerald, founder, and CEO of Augustus Media, sheds light on the purpose and potential impact of this collaboration in an exclusive conversation with AstroLabs: “The Ignite Programme aims for digital content creation and media production to triple the Kingdom’s digital content market size in gaming, audio, video, and advertising. Being accepted to and receiving funding will support Augustus’ plans to further our impact in the KSA. To be accepted as part of the Ignite program means a lot for us. We believed in having a modern media company in Saudi Arabia since the start.” – and through this strategic partnership, the media pioneer is set to showcase the Saudi culture, bringing the spotlight on the nation’s progressive growth journey.

Fitzgerald continued by highlighting how this collaboration will provide innovative solutions, including support for equipment, infrastructure, training, and the relocation of their team. These investments will further enhance Augustus Media’s capabilities as they continue to expand their studios and develop Saudi talent to bring their brands to life. Being accepted into the Ignite program holds immense significance for the company, as it aligns with their vision of creating a modern media powerhouse in Saudi Arabia. Fitzgerald also commends the structured and carefully implemented approach of the Ignite program, underscoring the confidence it inspires in the Kingdom’s 2030 vision for the entertainment and content sector.

Saudi Arabia is quickly gaining prominence in the global media scene. With its young and tech-savvy population, growing middle class, and keen interest in entertainment, the country is set to thrive, owing to Vision 2030 and transformative initiatives supporting local talent and content creation.

Embracing Localization and Global Impact for Saudi Media

Saudi Arabia’s media market, valued at SAR 17.4 million ($4.5 million) in 2022 by Kearney, holds a leading position in the MENA region, claiming about 30% of the market share. The sector has seen significant growth in digital segments, with an average annual growth rate of 26% over the past five years alone. 

As part of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia aims to increase household annual spending on local cultural and entertainment activities from 2.9% to an impressive 6%, SAR 36 billion ($9 billion). This emphasis on local content creation allows the nation to present a modern, dynamic, and culturally rich image to the world. The Public Investment Fund (PIF) is playing a pivotal role in actioning this transformation, aiming to boost its contribution to local content to 60% by 2025. This focus on localization not only empowers Saudi creators to tell their stories but also highlights the multifaceted nature of Saudi to showcase its rich heritage through global media.

The impact of media also travels to the tourism sector, earlier this year, MBC Solutions and the Saudi Tourism Authority joined forces to showcase the Kingdom’s leading tourist points of destination using the media group’s ecosystem across the region. As the Kingdom set its track to welcome over 150 million tourists by 2030, we can already see the media industry’s active role in realizing this vision.

Saudi Arabia’s potential in the global market is further highlighted by the projection of a cinema box office estimated to reach a staggering $950 million by 2030. The country has emerged as a destination for international film productions, with NEOM Media Village and Film AlUla’s production studios offering unique landscapes and crews to facilitate such projects. Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia raised its flag at the Cannes Film Festival as the Kingdom’s Cultural Development Fund unveiled two separate film sector funds worth a total of $180 million, further solidifying its commitment to fostering the local film industry and attracting international industry players.

Additionally, the sector presents a compelling opportunity for international companies eyeing expansion to the Kingdom. With its growing appeal and dynamic content industry, Saudi offers a favorable environment for global companies to set up operations and engage with a digitally adept audience. The strategic initiatives aligned with Vision 2030 not only benefit local talent but also create avenues for international firms to enter the Saudi market, fostering economic growth and enriching the nation’s media sector with global perspectives and expertise.

Looking ahead, Fitzgerald envisions the media and entertainment sector as a substantial contributor to Saudi Arabia’s GDP, ’’The digital IP this sector can unlock is incremental and unlimited, it can create global IP brands from Saudi Arabia, it can have far-reaching e-commerce benefits outside of the media and entertainment sector, from shows, movies, live events, to digital transactions, such as subscriptions, and e-commerce sales build on top of content brands. By supporting many companies, the total jobs created, the output of that creativity, can produce significant economic contribution and GDP growth.”

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