The sports and media industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has undergone a significant transformation in the past few years. KSA is now home to a number of high-profile sports teams, such as Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr, who have made significant progress in their respective leagues. In addition to this, investment has been poured into the development of stadiums and other facilities to support the development of these teams, allowing them to compete at a high level both domestically and internationally.
The media industry also saw several positive initiatives and regulatory changes in 2022. In this article, we’ll explore some of the key developments in the sports and media industry in KSA over the course of 2022, as well as looking at what is likely to happen in 2023.
What Did 2022 Bring for the Sports & Media Industries?
The previous year was a milestone for the sports and media industries in Saudi Arabia. No roundup would be complete without a mention of Saudi Arabia’s impressive performance during the World Cup in Qatar. However, there have been many other notable developments that are set to shape the sector in 2023 and beyond. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.
Football remains one of the most popular sports in the Kingdom. Out of all the Saudi residents who practise any sport, approximately 25% are participating in football. So it comes as no surprise that the KSA government is continuing to make huge investments in the development of football stadiums, training facilities, and academies to support grassroots development. In 2022, as part of this initiative, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) funnelled an impressive $2.3 billion worth of football sponsorships towards supporting football clubs and facilities in the region.
Saudi Arabia’s Sports for All Federation (SFA) also announced its ambition to construct six key sports facilities across the nation, each with 30-40 courts catered towards various sporting activities. It is estimated that more than 250,000 people will be drawn in to participate within the first year of operations.
2022 also saw the inaugural Saudi Games and NEOM Beach Games – two major sporting events that attracted both local and international competitors. With the success of these events and the continued investment in sports infrastructure, we can expect to see an increase in interest and investment from both local and foreign stakeholders within this sector.
With the intent to stimulate creativity and innovation and propel Arab media into a globally competitive place, Saudi Arabia initiated the Montij initiative at the 22nd Arab Radio and Television Festival held in November 2022.
Meanwhile, new regulations for digital media creators were also introduced, with the announcement that social media advertisers and influencers were required to submit their application for a licence to the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM) before October 1, 2022, or risk a fine.
With regard to digital content platforms, the CITC announced a revised version of its Digital Content Platform Regulations in February 2022. After public consultation, the amended regulations were finally published in April 2022. This updated set of regulations is designed to provide a more precise regulatory framework for the digital content industry, demonstrating an alteration in the Kingdom’s handling of platform operators. For instance, language requiring platform operators/service providers to have a physical presence within the Kingdom has been relaxed.
Future Developments: 2023 and Beyond
With 2023 kicking off with the announcement that football mega player Cristiano Ronaldo would be signing for Al-Nassr, the sports industry in KSA is expected to draw even more global attention. As for the Kingdom’s media industry, the landscape is continuing to evolve rapidly.
- Diriyah E-Prix – a Formula E Championship event in KSA held at the Diriyah Circuit – is set to be held from Jan 27th until Jan 28th 2023.
- Saudi Media Forum 2023 – an annual event that brings together media professionals, specialists, and decision-makers from the region to discuss opportunities and challenges in the sector – is also set to take place in the Kingdom in 2023.
- Bid for 2030 World Cup. Despite rumours of the Saudi Ministry of Tourism denying any plans for an official joint bid, they also have not ruled it out.
The developments of 2023 are expected to further fuel investment and innovation in the sector, as well as create greater opportunities for local and international stakeholders. With the right regulatory framework in place, and with continued government backing, KSA’s sports and media industry is set to become an even more competitive global force.