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Digital Tales

Weyyak’s Nadine Samra explains how great content is the key to success for OTT platforms during Ramadan.

Just like it is for traditional TV, Ramadan always is becoming a critical period for over-the-top (OTT) platforms. These fast-growing digital entertainment providers anticipate this time of year’s high viewership and the advertising boon that comes with it. The key, during the holy month even more than usual, is great content – which is why Zee Entertainment’s Arabic OTT platform Weyyak will release its first original show in Arabic, Chicago Street, on this occasion.

Broad appeal

In February, Weyyak had already unveiled its first batch of original content produced for digital platforms only. But as Nadine Samra, Chief Business Officer of Weyyak explained, Chicago Street will be different.

Unlike these original shows available on a subscription basis (SVoD) only, this Ramadan drama series will be released on Weyyak’s advertising-supported (AVoD) site. The platform boasts an average of three million monthly active users, out of which 45% are based in Saudi Arabia and 50% in the rest of the GCC.  But during Ramadan, “we get at least three or four times the traffic that we have normally,” says Samra, who adds: “People in the MENA region do not like to have to subscribe, so all our Arabic content is on AVoD. And Ramadan is a season when you really want to drive big traffic to the platform.”

According to Samra, “People are used to having a burst of new content during Ramadan. Because the demand is so high, we try to secure as much content as we can. The more content you [offer] and the more exclusive the content, the more viewership you’re going to have.” This need for exclusive content – and the competition around it – is what drove Weyyak to produce its own show. “MBC acquires a lot of content and, sometimes, they take it exclusively for Shahid. [So,] we have to fight for this content,” says Samra. Indeed, in Ramadan last year, Weyyak won a real battle when it finally secured the exclusive rights for the new season of the hugely popular drama series Bab el Harra.

This year, Weyyak is betting on Arab viewers’ curiosity. “Chicago Street is going to be a big name. We’ve got a lot of A-class actors and actresses that already made a big buzz. And everyone wants to see what we’ll do with our first original content,” says Samra.

A different type of investment

This first and expensive move into production is a big bet for Weyyak, launched not even three years ago; but immediate profitability is not what’s at stake here.

“We’re definitely going to be able to make money out of [this show] through advertising, but it won’t be sufficient to carry the cost. And this is not the way I look at it. The TV mentality is a bit like, ‘I’m going to acquire this content; how much revenue am I going to make on it?’ But in OTT, we look at the long-term investment value and ways to make the platform more popular.”

That’s not to say that advertising spend doesn’t increase on Weyyak during Ramadan – according to Samra, it does by 50%. But Weyyak’s prices remain the same. “We maintain our CPM across the year because in digital systems, you can measure everything that you spend on. On TV, you convince [clients] that more people are watching and accordingly, [clients] get more value for their money. But on digital platforms, you’re paying per view per user. Whether it is during Ramadan or outside of Ramadan, the return is exactly the same for you, because with a given amount of money, you’re going to get the same number of ad views,” explains Samra. Hence the need for a bigger inventory, that will give more vehicles for clients to spend on.

Weyyak also developed a special sponsorship package for Chicago Street. “Our technology allows sponsors to come on board for a particular show. For example, all of our users’ touchpoints in Chicago Street can be tagged with a client’s logo. The brand travels with the content. And since we are producing it, [clients] can do product placement within the show itself,” says Samra.

While last Ramadan, Weyyak had 16 new shows for MENA viewers, this year, the platform is focusing on elevating the quality – and this is a strategy that is meant to continue after the holy month. As Samra says, “Ramadan sets the tone for the rest of the year.”

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