Nearly half of Arabs watch US films yet most want more regional content, according to a survey.

A major pan-Arab study has revealed high region-wide concern about cultural preservation and support for media regulation, but also a general embrace of international content.

The survey by Northwestern University in Qatar in partnership with Doha Film Institute revealed that 65% of residents in six Arab countries want more content portraying their own culture and history, while an equal number (66%) said people benefit from watching content from different parts of the world. More than 70% region-wide want greater regulation of romantic and violent content.

The Entertainment Media Use in the Middle East survey included 6,035 face-to-face interviews in nationally representative samples of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.

Findings from the survey of both media use and cultural attitudes question a common perception that modernity and cultural preservation are at odds in the Arab world. While 79% of respondents feel that more should be done to preserve cultural traditions, a nearly similar percentage (70%) agree with the statement that more should be done to integrate their respective cultures with modern society.

“These apparently contradictory findings really are not, but reflect how the Arab world is coping with globalization and still grappling to preserve local culture,” said Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO of Northwestern University in Qatar.

“Understanding cultural attitudes around entertainment is as important to industry leaders and policymakers as viewership and other audience figures,” said Dennis. “This research provides a base of knowledge for executives across all sectors, including entertainment, sport, and children’s programming.”

According to the survey, the vast majority of adults believe entertainment content should be more regulated for romantic content (69%) and violence (74%). A total of 68% believe films or other entertainment programmes should be banned altogether if they are found offensive.

The survey also showed that nearly half of women in the Arab world ‘binge-watch’ TV series (49%), whether online or on television, viewing two or more episodes of a series in the same sitting. Only 31% of men surveyed do the same.

Abdulaziz Al-Khater, CEO of Doha Film Institute, said: “What we see from these numbers is a growing demand for locally generated entertainment. The findings reinforce the idea that nurturing a thriving creative industry in our region is vital to enabling the creation of content that accurately reflects Arab culture.” 

On May 5, the Qatar-specific findings will be discussed in detail at the Qatar Media Industries Forum, an NU-Q initiative that brings together Qatar media executives to discuss key issues in Qatari and regional media industries.

Other findings showed that:

  • Saudi Arabia residents are more likely than others to listen to Western music (64%). Internet users in Saudi Arabia are also more likely than others to pay for online content, especially sports (64%).

  • Residents of the UAE attend the cinema the most (82%), while those in Tunisia attend the least (15%).

  • 58% of adults listed comedy as one of their favorite types of film – more than any other genre.

  • 45% of Arabs in the countries surveyed say they watch US films. Thirty-four percent find Hollywood content “harmful to morality” and the same number are of the opinion that Hollywood films do not accurately portray life in the Arab world (35%).

  • 65% of adults in all countries believe government oversight helps produce higher quality entertainment.

The full report and an interactive data exploration tool can be found at