Skip to content
3D illustration of media in Saudi Arabia

Media in Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia Media Landscape Guide

Charles Ayling

Nov 3, 2023

Saudi Arabia's media business is vital to the country's economy. Saudi Arabia dominates the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) media industry, with a nearly 30% market share.

The restructuring of the media industry is a key component of Saudi Arabia's strategic ambitions, known as Saudi Vision 2030. The primary goal is to transform the media business into a regional content hub while also improving Saudis' quality of life.

In fact, Saudi Arabia's government hopes to attract considerable private sector investment in the growth of its creative and entertainment sectors by allocating more than SR3.3 billion ($879.8 million) to culture and media by 2020.

Investment in this business will provide more entertainment options, improve media quality, maintain national heritage and ideals, raise economic contribution, and promote Saudi Arabia's image both domestically and internationally.

However, Saudi Arabia censors various media, including books, newspapers, periodicals, films, television, and Internet content. The Saudi government strictly regulates and restricts the media in accordance with official state law.

Read along to understand these laws along with the media landscape in Saudi Arabia.

In this article, we discuss the following:

Image of two people looking at a laptop evaluating the media landscape in Saudi Arabia

Media Laws and Regulations in Saudi Arabia

Religion is at the heart of Saudi people's daily lives as a highly governed Islamic country, and laws for advertising campaigns are designed to honor that tradition.

The Ministry of Media, headquartered in Riyadh, is the major government entity in Saudi Arabia in charge of regulating the media sector and international communications. Additionally, the Saudi Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has recently enacted rules covering advertising across a variety of platforms, including commercial broadcasting, radio, digital advertising, and social media.

The ultimate purpose of CITC is to ensure that commercial entities are legally licenced, that privacy rules are followed, and that media produced adheres to cultural sensitivity and Islamic ideals.

Mass media and all other vehicles of expression shall employ civil and polite language, contribute towards the education of the nation and strengthen unity. It is prohibited to commit acts leading to disorder and division, affecting the security of the state and its public relations, or undermining human dignity and rights. - Article 30 of the ‘basic law’ of the kingdom

Some other rules and regulations governing the media in Saudi Arabia are:

Cybercrime and Internet Regulations in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi government has passed legislation to prevent cybercrime and restrict online activities. The Anti-Cybercrime Law, enacted in 2007, criminalizes a variety of acts, including hacking, unauthorized access to computer systems, and the publication of harmful content. Individuals and corporations must be aware of these requirements to ensure compliance and avoid legal ramifications.

Content Restrictions And Censorship in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has rigorous rules governing the content that can be shared on social media networks. The CITC tracks and filters online content to guarantee adherence to societal and cultural norms. Users should use caution when posting anything that could be considered inflammatory, defamatory, or contrary to Islamic beliefs.

Intellectual Property Rights in Saudi Arabia

Social media platforms allow for the sharing and dissemination of content, which may create concerns about intellectual property rights. Users should be aware of copyright rules and treat others' intellectual property with respect. Similarly, whether distributing copyrighted information or utilizing social media for advertising and marketing, firms must ensure that they have the necessary permits and licenses.

The “Mawthooq” Program in Saudi Arabia

Under the 'Mawthooq' programme, the CITC established regulations to oversee influencer and foreign commercial marketing efforts in Saudi Arabia. The programme specifies several rules, including:

  • Advertising approval will be provided only to those who work for a commercial entity that has the necessary licenses and legal documentation.
  • Non-Saudi citizens and tourists to the Kingdom are also barred from posting advertisements on social media without a license, even if they have their own personal branded profiles. 
  • Contracting, advertising, or hosting events with unlicensed non-Saudi advertisers or celebrities from outside the nation is prohibited for Saudi firms.

Those who disregard these rules risk prison time and heavy fines—this has a big impact on influencer operations in Saudi Arabia, as influencers are required to get licenses and follow certain content guidelines. Also, before cooperating with influencers or celebrities for paid endorsements, marketers must establish compliance with these standards and check the influencer's licensing status.

Furthermore, full disclosure of funded partnerships is needed by law and has the added benefit of maintaining authenticity in endorsed campaigns, which is critical for creating confidence with the audience. 

Data Privacy and Protection in Saudi Arabia

As a business, employing strong data protection procedures in advertising is critical for gaining consumer trust and keeping compliant. Furthermore, communicating privacy rules and following best practices in data handling can help generate a strong brand reputation and increase consumer trust.

Saudi Arabia established the Personal Data Protection Law (PDPL) in 2020 to protect individuals' data. According to the PDPL, marketers who collect and process personal data must get explicit consent from individuals and notify them about the goal, extent, and duration of data acquisition. Plus, marketers must also put in place suitable technical and organizational safeguards to protect data from unauthorized access, disclosure, modification, or destruction.

The law also offers Saudi citizens various rights, including the ability to view their data, seek its correction or deletion, withdraw consent, and object to the processing of their data for any reason. Commercial media companies in Saudi Arabia are required to respect these rights.

While the number of regulations may appear daunting, the enormous opportunities in this country are worth it. So, marketers should familiarize themselves with the legislation, allow for the necessary licensing and clearances, and work with a local agency when developing marketing campaign ideas for Saudi Arabia.

Two people looking at a laptop figuring out more about media in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia boasts the largest, most literate, and technologically aware young adult population. Indeed, more than half of the population is under 30, and they are ready for new digital experiences, ranging from online gaming to streaming music and videos.

Furthermore, Saudis spend six hours each day on digital media and three hours per day on social media. Since practically everyone owns a smartphone, the digital sector is expected to grow even more in the future.

Tip: For more statistics, download the free Global Digital Trends Report.

Here are some of the leading media channels in the Saudi Arabian kingdom:

  • Social Media
  • Newspaper
  • Television
  • Over-The-Top Media
  • Print Media
  • Radio

Social Media Usage in Saudi Arabia

Social media platforms have evolved into important tools for Saudis to express themselves. Platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat have grown in popularity as places for people to express themselves, share personal experiences, and engage in public debate. Saudi youth, in particular, have used social media to interact with others who share their interests, building communities that cross borders.

Here are some of the top social media channels operating in Saudi Arabia:

Social Media PlatformShare of Users in Saudi Arabia
Facebook Messenger43.3%

In 2022, the top motive for using social media in Saudi Arabia was to communicate with friends and family, followed by passing the time.

Furthermore, the number of WhatsApp users in Saudi Arabia is predicted to significantly increase between 2023 and 2028. Following its fifth consecutive year of growth, WhatsApp's user base is predicted to reach 17.29 million users in 2028, a new high.

3D illustration of newspapers in Saudi Arabia

Some of the most popular newspapers of Saudi Arabia are:

SRMG (Saudi Research & Marketing Group)

SRMG (Saudi Research & Marketing Group) is the Middle East's largest publishing company, primarily focused on offering information products and services through the publication of newspapers and periodicals. They publish in the Middle East and around the world.

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat

A Saudi newspaper with a circulation of over two lakh; it markets itself as the 'international newspaper of the Arabs.'   It is published by the Saudi Research and Publishing Company (SRPC), owned by King Abdullah's nephew. It is a powerful newspaper that covers pan-Arab and international topics and targets readers in Saudi Arabia who are interested in a wide range of news and ideas.

Its primary readership, however, is made up of Arab expatriates from all around the world. Moreover, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat is the only Arabic newspaper that now owns the Arabic copyright for major international syndicates, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and USA Today.


Okaz is a leading daily published in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia that began as a weekly in 1960 but became a daily in 1964. The newspaper takes its name from the famed Okaz market, which was one of the largest open markets in pre-Islamic times. Its daily circulation exceeds one lakh, with the majority of its readers residing in the Hejaz region, which includes the holy towns of Makkah and Madinah.

It is owned by Okaz Organisation for Press and Publication, a completely private company with senior Saudi business people holding controlling shares. However, it serves primarily as a government mouthpiece. It is printed in both Jeddah and Riyadh, the capital and has a large network of reporters all around the kingdom.


Another popular Arabic daily in Saudi Arabia, it was founded in Lebanon in 1946 by Lebanese businessman Kamel Marwah and is now controlled by another of the king's nephews, Prince Khalid bin Sultan. The publication, which has a circulation of over 1.5 lakh, describes itself as 'an independent, international, and Arab political daily paper.'

It is a widely read daily in the Arab world, particularly Saudi Arabia, and targets Arab communities in around 30 locations in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and North America, where satellite printing makes it available every morning.

  1. free-to-air (FTA) television
  2. MBC1
  3. Al Arabiya TV
  4. Al-Hadath TV
  5. Asharq News 
  6. Saudi TV

Traditionally, free-to-air (FTA) television has dominated the country by generating the most revenue. In Saudi Arabia, FTA is almost exclusively powered by satellite technology, with revenue via television advertising.

In terms of channels, MBC1 had the highest watching rate in Saudi Arabia in 2021, with 14.3%, while MBC2 had the lowest, with 4.5%.

TV advertising continued to dominate the Saudi video business, with total TV advertising sales expected to cross $500 million by 2023. Statistically, the viewing population is skewed towards an older audience, with a sizable proportion of Millennials and Generation X still watching traditional television (59.4%). Only 12.6% of Generation Z watches television, and the elder generations watch even less, at 8.6%.

Over-The-Top Media in Saudi Arabia

The traditional segments are slowly declining due to obsolescence caused by the expansion of digital segments. The video business, which FTA has formerly controlled, is being increasingly saturated by rising over-the-top television firms (OTT). OTT videos are predicted to have the strongest revenue growth in Saudi Arabia—reaching almost $1.3 billion by 2025.

Netflix, for example, maintains a strong competitor in the market despite slower subscriber growth through 2022. To meet the increased demand for on-demand entertainment, the streaming service has been extending its footprint and portfolio across the region. Furthermore, among subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services, Netflix has the most subscribers in the MENA area in 2021.

With the expansion of digital media segments, development in traditional media segments in Saudi Arabia may face even greater challenges in the coming years.

Illustration of a checklist in front of a pink background

According to Statista, print media is still relevant in Saudi Arabia, despite a falling tendency – it fell 3% in 2023 and is predicted to fall further through 2027.

Newspaper advertising is the most expensive print media category, with a forecast cost of $336.90 million in 2023. In 2023, the average ad spending per reader is $56.95, greater than in other categories. Similarly, reader viewership is on the decline, with a reach of 5.92 million in 2023.

Marketers, on the other hand, can place adverts in popular publications to target specific demographics or geographic locations of Saudi Arabia.

Tip: Learn more about the state of print monitoring.

Radio in Saudi Arabia

With the rise of audio streaming services, the audio advertising scene in Saudi Arabia has changed in recent years. Yet, traditional audio advertising, such as radio ads, continues to be the most popular media, accounting for 71% of audio ad expenditure.

The most popular radio channels in Saudi Arabia are:

  • MBC FM - owned by a private company
  • Mix FM - owned by a private company
  • Saudi Radio - run by the state government

Also, streaming services, such as Spotify, are popular among younger generations, with around 4.72 million listeners, a small but rising user demographic.

How To Stay on Top of Media in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, with its young and highly digitally connected population, presents a promising consumer landscape with enormous possibilities for increased brand visibility, engagement, and growth.

Businesses can use a combination of online and offline platforms to efficiently reach their target customers and tailor information to their tastes and cultural backgrounds.

While success in this market necessitates a thorough grasp of religious sensitivities as well as rigorous adherence to laws, advertisers should consider capitalizing on the enormous potential that Saudi Arabia advertising has to offer.

To make the most of your media campaigns in Saudi Arabia, you should also think about leveraging media monitoring—listen to what your target audience is saying. This will help you make strategic decisions regarding marketing initiatives and promotional campaigns.

Meltwater media monitoring media intelligence suite

If you don’t know where to start from, Meltwater's PR services are the perfect solution for you! It will help you stay on top of industry trends and insights on customer habits by equipping you with a comprehensive .

Wait, that’s not all. You can boost your marketing further by taking advantage of Meltwater’s media database, press release distribution service, relationship management, and other media tools such as the Meltwater Media Relations Suite.

Simply fill out the form below to receive a free demo.