For Egyptians, Ramadan programs beat the World Cup

Before the Muslim month of fasting began, many speculated that the World Cup would divide the attention of audiences

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Global euphoria over the World Cup has failed to pull away Egyptian viewers from the allure of hotly-awaited TV series specially broadcasted in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, media experts say.

For many years, Ramadan has been the peak time when satellite channels compete to garner high viewership for seasonal TV soaps.

But this year, the FIFA World Cup emerged as a strong competitor - overlapping with two weeks of Ramadan.

Before Ramadan, many speculated that the World Cup would divide the attention of audiences – with male viewers watching the tournament, and female audiences catching up on Ramadan serials.

But as the World Cup draws to a finish, some believe that the widespread broadcasting of football’s largest tournament has failed to shift the attention of viewers.

“The World Cup matches did not pull away viewers from TV soaps,” said Magda Khairallah, an Egyptian screenwriter and critic.

Unlike football matches that are aired at specific times and only on certain channels, Ramadan series benefit from more diverse broadcast timings and the feasibility of being aired on numerous free-to-air satellite channels, Khairallah explained.

“The timings of matches are fixed, thus, football fans will divert from watching Ramadan programs for some time then will switch to their favorite TV soaps at different timings.”

Sports critic Mahmoud Sabry agreed with Khairallah, saying Ramadan series win over World Cup matches.

“Not all people [can] afford to subscribe to channels airing the World Cup. This is an advantage for TV soaps broadcasted on free-to-air channels.”

Sabry told Al Arabiya News the expensive subscription rates to channels airing the World Cup have impacted the number of viewers, who in his opinion, would most probably sit at home to watch TV dramas and follow on the match results later.

“Most families can’t afford paying for the expensive subscription rates to channels airing the World Cup,” said Sabry.

Thus, a certain age group of viewers will resort to visiting coffee shops where matches are commonly aired - an activity that has been affected by this year's fasting hours.

“Youth who like to watch matches in coffee shops can no longer do so while fasting,” Sabry said.

He said matches aired after Iftar (when the day’s fasting ends) enjoy higher viewership.

But for many Egyptians, spending Ramadan in family gatherings remains the best way to spend the holy month.

“I prefer to spend more time at home with family where I can feel the spirit of Ramadan or gathering with friends for Iftar,” Sara Sabry, an Egyptian resident in UAE, told Al Arabiya News.

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