Hams Saleh, Dubai
With Facebook evolving into a platform for video and content creators, Fares Akkad — director of media partnerships in the Middle East, Africa & Turkey — promises that as of next year, the social media giant will make the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) a priority market.
In an interview with Arab News, Akkad said he believes this will be an effective move for Facebook as it is the “living room conversation” of the region, it gives chances to creative youth to express their talents and highlights the dramatic changes happening in the region.
“We are effectively the water cooler conversation of what’s happening in general in society, and a society that has a lot going on, especially in terms of media that creates conversations that usually live on our platform,” Akkad explained.
Akkad believes that there is a large number of young people and creatives in the MENA region that need to express themselves. “Therefore, having the ability to not just publish your content but find the niche audience who might share the same interest and engage with them, that is quite unique to our platform and that has proven to be very powerful to the region,” he said.
“About a year ago, when we expanded Facebook Watch across the globe, we saw massive consumption everywhere, but in particular in the Middle East which is quite reflective of the general video consumption habits of people here.
“We had high hopes in general for the Middle East because of the demographics — 70 percent of the population being under 30, and high consumption of traditional and new media,” he added. “This hypothesis was proven to exceed even our expectations.”
This massive consumption from the region has led the Facebook Watch platform to produce a two-season show for US-Iraqi makeup mogul Huda Kattan, Huda Boss.
However, when speaking about Facebook Watch shows, Akkad said the platform was unlikely to rely merely on originals. “With our experimentation with originals, we found out that audiences like variety, and the power our platform has is that you are able to find niche content that you connect with,” he explained.
To Akkad, there are other forms of engaging with locally relevant content such as licencing clips from existing publishers or creators, creating behind the scenes content or funding projects for others.
“The goal behind originals is to showcase what is possible and to test certain hypotheses,” he said.