Live From Content Everywhere MENA: YouTube’s Inspirational Efforts

YouTube is closing in on its 10th anniversary, and Stephen Nuttall, senior director, EMEA, YouTube, took to the stage at Content Everywhere MENA this week to discuss how YouTube is giving everyone a chance to create a YouTube channel and create an audience. The key, he said, is that YouTube is not about viewers but fans.

Stephen Nuttall, YouTube, EMEA, senior director, says that YouTube's success is not due to viewers but fans.

Stephen Nuttall, senior director, EMEA, YouTube, said that YouTube’s success is due not to viewers but to fans.

“YouTube was built by fans,” he said. “Fans who pay tribute to their favorite shows. Our platforms can help you use the power of the Web to give audiences what they want, where they want, and to build two-way relationships with viewers that turns them into active fans.”

Diana Baddar, head of MENA Partnerships, YouTube, laid out the strength YouTube has in the MENA market. More than 14 million hours of content is consumed on YouTube every day in the region and is second only to the U.S. in terms of average viewing times per viewer.

Ahmed Abbas, COO of QSoft, discussed arguably the most important MENA development to arise out of YouTube: the phenomenon of Al Bernameg, the Egyptian political-satire show that was created by QSoft and featured anchor Bassem Youssef.

“When the show started in 2011,” Abbas noted, “the Egyptian revolution was happening, and, for us, this was an opportunity to tell the truth, and we knew that Egyptians understand humor and sarcasm.”

QSoft was also one of YouTube’s first partners in the MENA region, and, with a nice format, a charismatic personality, and good production values, the pieces were in place to create a phenomenon. But there was another important element.

“We knew how to make a YouTube video go viral,” said Abbas. “On YouTube, there is not much time to hook a viewer as they will decide whether to watch in the first few seconds. Also, fans want to be part of it and share the video and comment on it. Once they subscribe, you can build a fan base.”

Abbas advised those looking to best leverage YouTube to take a few key steps. First, he said, schedule videos to be released a couple of times a week so that viewers can wait for content. Also, link videos to each other to help drive overall traffic. And, last, relate to current events, whether a concert, sports event, or, in the case of Al Bernameg, a revolution.

When the show made the leap to broadcast TV, the YouTube outlet still proved important. Videos, for example, would be released online at the same time as on TV. But fans online were given exclusive backstage footage and more.

Al Bernameg may be no more, but Qsoft is not done. It has launched the TubeStar Network, designed to help talent in the MENA region go from “zero to hero.”

“Talent in MENA is underserved and limited to music-TV contests,” Abbas noted. “And old faces still dominate TV talent. So we think we can add a lot of value to help talent reach the next step.”

The company has had 4,000 video submissions, which have been viewed 120 million times.

“We have nine new shows in development,” he added.

Qsoft is not alone in using YouTube to transform a region that, historically, has seen limited opportunities for those not well entrenched in the traditional media business to find a voice.

Kaswara Al-Khatib, chairman, UTurn Entertainment, said his company’s online network, which reaches nearly 25 million users, embodies the changing landscape.

“We started in 2011 as we saw a gap in content from Saudi youth to Saudi youth,” he said. “We started with a couple of shows and asked ourselves what do people want.”

The first show the company launched was a satirical show featuring a standup comedian. Not knowing where the boundaries were, the company focused on national news headlines.

“We took the news and created funny comments on it,” he explained. Today, the show enters its fourth season and has more than 855,000 subscribers. Total users today for UTurn’s 50-plus shows exceed 24 million on social media and also 10 million YouTube followers.

“Content resides on YouTube,” noted Al-Khatib, adding, “But we also reach viewers through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.”

What’s most important, he said, is reaching what he calls Generation C.

“They live like us,” he said, “but they are totally different and about being connected, community, curate, and create.”

For Baddar, both Qsoft and UTURN represent what YouTube partnerships are truly about: “This is a platform to create, inspire, and share.”

With Bassem Youssef landing on the cover of Time magazine as part of the 2013 “100 Most Influential People in the World” issue, one can’t help but agree.


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