Before you start looking for what to watch and what not to watch in Ramadan 2017, why don’t we talk about why we watch what we’ll be watching, first?
Ramadan trends and traditions in Egypt over the course of the past 10 years have been evolving rapidly. All thanks to two main events: the January 25th revolution and the wave of dubbed foreign TV shows that invaded our households and pop-culture. I know what you are thinking, is he going to start glorifying the revolution?
THE REVOLUTION VS TV
Well, not necessarily. Since 1960 till very recent, the government held a monopoly on terrestrial broadcasting. The state owned channels were the ones setting the rules of the game in a mean to moderate the media industry and control public opinion and perception of the state.
Even the privately owned channels were rigorously regulated by the Ministry of Information. That paved the way for a market with little incentive to expand and compete.
Until 2002, Egypt had only two privately-owned broadcasting channels: Al-Mehwar and Dream. Even in both these channels, the government had high financial stakes. However, that’s where the revolution comes in. Ever since the 2011 revolution, the widespread broadcasting censorships, which were imposed by the previous regime, have been gradually dwindling.
By 2012, it was reported that the 23 state-owned channels’ viewership is declining exponentially. Since the subscription television penetration is very low and Egypt’s lenience towards free satellite is much higher, there was a sudden void in the market.
With that trajectory occurring simultaneously with the increase in demand for soap operas talking about politics, social dilemmas and international affairs, the industry was revamped to accommodate the demand. Private channels started emerging with more artistic freedom for storytelling.
In 2012, Egyptian actor, Hani Ramzi, told the Emirati newspaper, al-Khalij: “The 25 January revolution created new vistas for writers.”
DUBBED FOREIGN SHOWS VS EGYPT
The second happening that raised the bar was the wave of dubbed foreign TV shows, Turkish and Indian in specific. Turkish soap operas’ impact on Egyptian pop-culture in the mid-2000s was unprecedented.
Providing shows with a higher quality of production with visually appealing frames, set designs and even actors. Literally everyone was a model. It was a nice change for the TV-goers to watch something with more layered storytelling and eye-pleasing actors.
Moreover, the dubbing was not in the Egyptian dialect but rather Syrian. Syrian production and broadcasting agencies exploited that fact and started producing shows with a similar caliber of production. Since their dialect resonated more in the Gulf region and demand for more was on the rise, Egyptian shows were facing a dilemma.
Since the failed attempt of a revolution that took place in Syria, a lot of the production has been halted. With a lot of studios and sets destroyed during the war and several movements to boycott Syrian television, Syrian production took a shift to Lebanon but was never able to regain its previous momentum.
Egypt saw that there wasn’t only the void left by the absence of the state-owned channels and the creative freedom that came with it, but also the void left after the Syrian television was temporarily frozen.
Approximately 41% of Egyptians spend an average of four hours per day watching TV. To capitalize on these series of events, Egyptian channels now produce annually more than 50 shows in Ramadan. To guarantee viewership, more than 2.5 billion EGP is spent in their production.
Now that paves way for competition. That influx of TV shows in Ramadan and a guaranteed huge amount of people on their couches in front of their TVs has lured in a lot of companies to fight for advert slots during the intermissions.
The revenue generated from those adverts is so substantial that a time slot could reach 10 million EGP.
Now when you are watching Adel Imam’s new show after Iftar and you watch an hour worth of advertisements for a twenty minutes episode, try not to complain too much. That is the industry’s catalyst that will allow it to expand and experiment in new directions. If you can’t stand it, then watch Harim El-Sultan.