Setting foundation for media success
Aiman Al Ziyoud, Founder and CEO, Charisma Group
Charisma Group infuses passion and professionalism into world-class Arabic content creation
Before you set up Charisma Group in 2005, you were already a media industry veteran having done important roles behind and in front of the camera. What do you think are the key lessons you have learned from those roles?
The fundamentals of success in media don't change: a joy and passion for creating relatable content; rigorous professionalism, consistency and attention to detail; and a competitive spirit to always find ways to improve. Competing whether it's finding and making the best programming, to offering content through new, innovative channels bringing you closer than ever to your consumer's lifestyle.
Whether you're an intern on your first day, or the CEO of a multinational media conglomerate - passion, professional consistency and a competitive spirit will always set the foundations for success in media.
How have those lessons helped you in defining the business model of Charisma Group and carrying out your responsibilities as CEO?
As with most CEOs, growing a company is an opportunity to build a philosophy for success with a team of incredibly talented and capable individuals. A philosophy that ultimately underpins - day in and day out - the delivery of a very specific vision and structured execution. In case, the vision is creating the world's leading Arabic content.
Every year, Charisma Group delivers an incredible 1,500 hours of world-class Arabic content tailored for highly-rated Arab TV channels and media outlets across the world. Every one of those hours is the product of hundreds of people bringing their passion to work, operating with the highest degree of professionalism and attention to detail, and always looking for ways to excel at what we do.
What were the major challenges facing the media and entertainment industry in the Arab world (especially with regard to Arabic content) when you first decided to launch your own media production company?
When we had the idea to start Charisma, we saw a clear gap. I can make this point simply: Arabic content, by and large, was not world-class, nor was it culturally relevant.
With a rapidly growing Arabic media footprint, significant global demand for Arabic programming - the quality of production significantly lagged behind consumer tastes and industry demand. And most "Arabic" programming that did exist would lack specific insight and cultural relevance.
Technology has dramatically transformed content consumption worldwide from TV to digital media - what do you feel this has meant for content providers as they try to remain relevant? And how has Charisma Group approached this challenge?
The idea that TV is some big box fixed to the wall - that's moving on. The new reality is that TV is in your pocket. It's on your tablet. It's soon going to be in VR and strapped to your face.
The best content is content that travels. This is where TV producers and digital distributors collaborate. For us, that means breaking out of our old mindsets and formats, and delivering content that is just as accessible, clamorous, and relatable, whether it's on your TV, computer or phone. Maybe it's building an online chat ecosystem, maybe it's shorter (or longer!) episodes.
Tell us about your latest venture into digital media with the launch of online entertainment news website ET Bil Arabi.
ET bil Arabi started in 2015, and is running on MBC4 for three seasons, earning a reputation as the most credible news source in entertainment. It's an exciting opportunity to bring, on a new and wider scale, the industry-leading standards of Entertainment Tonight to the Arab World's vibrant creative ecosystem.
Our re-launch of ET Bil Arabi as a digitally-native platform affords the opportunity to meet viewers where they are - reaching our established base of over eight million social media followers - and reducing friction as we scale further.
ET bil Arabi's digitally-native platform is rolling out hard-hitting video and editorial content in Arabic covering the latest and most relevant news on celebrities, film, television, music, fashion, award shows and special events in a trend-setting, ground-breaking format.
The global video on demand market is growing exponentially and will likely be valued at more than $87 billion by 2025. In the MENA region, VOD is also gaining traction with subscriptions set to double by 2024. How will Charisma Group partnership with Facebook Watch help in positioning the company in the rapidly VOD market?
There are over 164 million active Facebook users in just the Middle East. Facebook Watch enables us to seamlessly reach that full audience, and well beyond to Arabic media consumers the world over. This partnership is a significant step in our wider effort to offer world-class Arabic content to consumers - directly in line with their lifestyle and content consumption habits.
Why do you think Arabic content creation holds untapped business opportunity in the MENA region and the rest of the world? How is Charisma Group enabling the Arabic content creation and production ecosystem in the GCC region, especially in Saudi Arabia?
There is a rich history of storytelling and incredible content creation that's unique to the Arab world - it's only natural for that history to carry forward in world-class TV and digital content that defines contemporary storytelling.
Our competitive advantage is a deep understanding of local markets, most notably in the KSA - and it doesn't come about by accident. We invest in deep market analyses, closely follow trends, and continue to find genuine inspiration in our audiences.
It's ultimately this understanding and inspiration that helps us see things from a new perspective, bringing fresh thinking to clients and creating new possibilities for TV content that generates high viewer engagement.
To the Charisma team, creativity comes in three distinct phases: Content Creation; Content Production; Content Optimisation. In Content Creation, the team starts with that same research and development, building content to fundamentally address specific target audiences.
Creation then brings in world-class directors and producers, tapping global leaders like CBS, Viacom and Warner Brothers, as well as leading writers and creators from across the region.
With a dynamic concept, culturally-relevant and interactive scrips in hand, the teams then move on to Content Production. The fun 'lights, camera, action!' part of the equation, where top film crews combine with the best equipment and studio environments to produce content that looks as good as any movie.
Looking world-class only happens when you have a team at the top of their game, working with the best equipment, precisely engineering and managing production every step of the way.
The final stage, content optimisation, basically means making the programme a success. This includes core factors like establishing a brand name with a unique selling proposition, reinforcing relationships and access to broadcasters, digital operators and other platform owners, and launching with efficient marketing and sales capabilities.