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Global Media Intelligence 2020: United Arab Emirates

Key Features

The online population in UAE, like Saudi Arabia, is chiefly composed of archetypal early adopters with established digital habits.

  • Males and city dwellers make up a large part of the online population in UAE. Given those skews, it’s not surprising to find high levels of engagement with digital devices and activities.
  • In H1 2020, the share of internet users owning a smartphone remained vastly greater than the share owning a PC at 97.1% versus 64.7%. Neither value had altered much since H1 2019. Some 37.0% of respondents owned a tablet—a decrease of nearly 3 percentage points year over year (YoY). Feature phone penetration dropped below 10% for the first time.
  • Confirming the primacy of mobile activity, internet users spent an estimated 4 hours, 16 minutes per day (4:16) on average with mobile devices. Time spent with PCs and tablets was a full hour less at 3:16. In fact, PC and tablet time had decreased from H1 2019, while mobile time rose.
  • Smart TV penetration also declined marginally to 37.3% in H1 2020. As in Turkey, there was a notable drop in ownership of smart TVs among internet users living in affluent households.
  • All traditional media lost audience share in UAE between Q1 2019 and Q1 2020, according to GlobalWebIndex/Publicis Media. That said, broadcast media reached a large majority of internet users; 78.5% of those polled had watched TV in the prior month, and 63.9% had listened to radio programs. Print formats took the worst punishment, as in other countries. Penetration of print newspapers dropped more than 8 percentage points to 52.8%, while print magazine readership fell to 48.0%. Respondents in low- and high-income households were more likely to read either format than internet users in middle-income households.
  • Daily time devoted to print newspapers and magazines lagged time spent with online press—at 1:02 to 1:30 on average, respectively—but both had increased YoY.
  • Many people now listen to digital audio material, too. Younger internet users predominate in these audiences. More than three-quarters (77.2%) of respondents in UAE had streamed music, podcasts, or other digital audio content in the prior month, with more than 84% of 16- to 34-year-olds doing so. Intriguingly, affluents were no longer the income group most engaged with digital audio this year; instead, penetration was slightly higher among low-income respondents.
  • Voice search continues to gain fans as well, though most of these still belong to typical early-adopter demographics. Among total respondents in H1 2020, 46.2% had used tools like Microsoft’s Cortana or Apple’s Siri in the prior month or used voice commands via a smart speaker or similar device. Usage exceeded 50% among respondents ages 16 to 34.


Karin von Abrams


Anam Baig
Senior Editor
Joanne DiCamillo
Donte Gibson
Chart Editor
Kathleen Hamblin
Chart Editorial Manager
Dana Hill
Director of Production
Erika Huber
Copy Editor
Magenta Ranero
Senior Chart Editor
Hilary Rengert
VP, Research Strategy
Amanda Silvestri
Senior Copy Editor
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