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Mideast & North Africa


YouTube’s growth in the Arab world

YouTube has always been a platform where people come to laugh, learn, and to watch their favorite creators. The Arab world is no exception as the region’s watchtime, second only to the United States, grew by 60% last year.

Five years ago, YouTube in the Arab world looked very different from how it looks today. There was only a handful of creators who made content especially for YouTube, and few had crossed the one million subscriber mark. Today, more than 50 channels in the region have their Gold YouTube Play Button which marks their one-million subscriber milestone. The diversity of content also spiked in recent years with the emergence and growth of channels such as Qarwasha, Vignette, and the Saudi Reporters.

We are proud of how far the Arab creator community has come, having tripled in size in the last three years. These channels grew not just in number of subscribers, but also in quality and variety, with videos about topics ranging from comedy and education, to gaming.

Saudi Arabia plays a big part in this growth as it contributes a third of the Middle East’s total watchtime. The country’s own watchtime grew by 50% in the last year. An increased number of creators and a more diverse set of content is one of the drivers of this increase in watchtime. As of this month, there are more than 20 channels in Saudi Arabia with over a million subscribers.

The creator community in the kingdom also experienced a surge in diversity in recent years, as more women came to YouTube to express themselves and build a community where they can share their interests and passions. These women include Njoud Al Shammari who shares her stories and adventures everyday with over a million subscribers, Hatoon Kadi  who continues to make hundreds of thousands laugh with her witty commentary, and nutritionist Alia Al Moayad who shares valuable tips on how to stay healthy.

This female creator society has proven its impact on YouTube, as watchtime of female-led channels in the kingdom grew by 75% in 2016. Moreover, the fastest growing female YouTube creators in the Arab world come from Saudi Arabia.

That is why we launched YouTube Batala last year, a hub dedicated to helping our users discover the many female creators in the Arab world. And given YouTube’s continued growth, we found it was time that the region gets its own permanent YouTube Space which will open its doors to creators from around the region later this year in Dubai.

More recently, we hosted the Arab world’s first YouTube FanFest last week in Jeddah where people gathered at the King Abdullah Sports City to see more than 20 of the region’s most influential YouTube creators take the stage, a first for many of them.

The result was not just thousands of excited fans, but a series of shows that brought to life the content millions of people around Saudi Arabia watch everyday. From Fahad Sal’s hilarious performance and Hayla’s interactive challenges, to the Saudi Reporters’ fun on-stage trivia, FanFest was host to the creativity that lives on YouTube in the Arab world.

This is one of the many ways we will continue to support the creators who make YouTube a great place to laugh, learn, and be entertained. Whether through events like FanFest or initiatives like Batala, which just announced the second batch of Arab female creators to join the channel, we hope we can help them grow.

We also look forward to the opening of the region’s very own YouTube Space in Dubai which will be hosting YouTubers from all over the Arab world who can come learn and collaborate with their fellow creators.