Formats for Watching Television – Free vs. Subscription TV

Free-to-air satellite TV is the most common format for watching television, followed by subscription TV (69% and 30%, respectively), although the incidence of each varies considerably by country. In Egypt and Tunisia, nearly all viewing is of free TV, and three-fourths watch free TV in Saudi Arabia. In contrast, only about half watch free TV in the UAE and Qatar (54% and 55%, respectively), and in Lebanon, use of subscription TV surpasses that of free television (73% vs. 43%).

The relative popularity of free and subscription TV programming is consistent among different age groups, but subscription TV is more popular among those with higher education levels. As might be expected, subscription TV is noticeably more popular among non-Arab expats, typically used twice as much as free TV. It is possible programming they prefer to watch is only available by subscription.