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Middle East holds potential for social TV apps

These are expected to help advertisers identify target audience

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Ahmed Nassef, Yahoo’s former vice president and managing director for the Middle East and Africa.
Gulf News

Dubai: The Middle East offers a massive opportunity for app developers who want to combine TV and mobile experiences, says Ahmad Nassef, Yahoo’s former vice president and managing director for the Middle East and Africa.

“People are watching their favourite TV shows using their mobile devices. So, connecting a message from TV to mobile creates a massive opportunity,” Nassef said.

TV viewership and the utilisation of mobile devices have shown strong growth in the last several years. There are over 170 million television viewers in the Middle East and North Africa while sales of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, are growing faster than that of PCs. Also, the penetration of mobile devices is increasing.

To take advantage of the rise in television and digital consumption, Nassef co-founded a social TV start-up called Telfez, with Tamer Rashad, former managing director and head of Merrill Lynch in the Middle East and Africa.

The start-up, based in Palo Alto, California, aims to bring social TV to viewers across the Middle East.

In a few months, Telfez expects to launch a mobile app that will communicate what the viewer is watching on television to social media platforms, Nassef said.

The application will help viewers know what their friends are watching, he added.


Social TV can bring benefits to advertisers in the region, Nassef said. For instance, they can know who is watching the television show or film they are advertising.

Television and digital advertising budgets in the region are growing, he said. Over 40 per cent of regional advertising budgets are spent on TV.

Additionally, digital advertising spend is expected to account for eight per cent of total advertising spend in the region by this year, and 10 per cent by 2015.

But “what [advertisers] are missing is the connection between what’s happening on TV and mobiles,” Nassef said. ”Broadcasters and advertisers need a way to connect those experiences for their viewers and consumers, and that’s what Telfez will be all about,” he said.


Nassef said that some of the challenges to creating social TV apps is “finding the expertise and executing the ideas.” However, financing a social TV start-up is not an issue as funding is accessible in the region, he said.

Mobile apps are expected to have a large presence in emerging markets in the future, he said. “I see in the future big international companies that are growing in the mobile app space coming here,” he said.