Al Aan TV is an Arabic TV station catering for a female audience. Established for 5-years, the popular channel offers an exciting mix of programming with cooking, fashion, chat and daily news.
Recently the 'Amira' show has taken the region by storm; The Arab world 'Oprah' style talk show is rapidly becoming cult TV, and has helped boost Al Aan's viewing figures by 1204% over similar months in the previous year. Star of the show, Amira Al Fadl, expressed her enthusiasm for the groundbreaking programme, "Women across the Arab world need a breath of fresh air. They want support and appreciation. We will reach out and touch their hearts through inspiring stories that are relevant to them." It is from this viewpoint that that Al Aan also launched 'Kalam', its answer to 'YouTube' and one of the first interactive social networking video portals wholly designed to meet the needs of the Middle East by publishing content in Farsi, Arabic and Urdu.
Hossein Jalali, Head of Online for Al Aan TV takes up the story. "The Kalam project is social networking with a difference. We were conscious that the Middle East market was looking for its own 'YouTube', but without some of the more unpleasant offerings that can often litter popular video portals. Kalam is for family and friends and is designed to build culture and involvement through interaction in individual languages. We were proud to be the first to publish in Farsi, Arabic and Urdu."
Rich Content Delivery Challenges
However, although Al Aan had a vast potential for success, it was not being realised. They were encountering too many technical issues and difficulties coping with the variable traffic volumes. Large videos were being uploaded by subscribers, and at the same time we had high concurrent visitor numbers, causing the site to become unstable and even unavailable. The main cause of the trouble being the unexpected; a video that suddenly goes 'viral' can very quickly occupy the total available bandwidth, denying access and causing customer frustration.
Hossein revealed, "With this developing scenario we soon had trouble with our hosting suppliers, who were unable to keep up with demand or provide the appropriate advice and suggestions, or even the necessary technological solutions to ensure the level of network uptime and stability that was required. Kalam was being doomed to failure because of its success unless something was done…and fast."
Hossein said, "The hosting of the portal was the key to building success, and the hosting provider had to be able to guarantee our audience 100% network uptime whilst offering short waiting times for uploads and downloads. We were fully aware of the vast potential for Kalam, but were being baulked and prevented from moving to the next level of success by technology and infrastructure failure."
Accommodate huge growth
Hossein went on to say, “Fortunately, through a series of contacts, we discovered Rackspace® Hosting, and after detailed discussions of the many problems and issues that we faced, they were able to recommend a very robust hosting solution that would not only provide the network uptime we needed, but would also accommodate the huge growth in audience figures and network demand we anticipated in the future.”
The current hosting solution comprises two front end webservers, and an active/passive MySQL/NFS Redhat cluster sharing the same nodes, and a Storage Area Network with a full back up and restore facility. This is fully managed by Rackspace.
Social Networking has taken off in the Middle East
Hossein revealed, "Once our web sites were migrated to Rackspace I can honestly say that we have never looked back. After just two months we were the number one video portal, with visitors totalling 50-60 thousand per day and growing! Social Networking has really taken off in the Middle East, but perhaps in a more exciting and family focussed way, than in Europe. The audience likes to claim ownership of the site and the content proves that this is working, with new videos being viewed and uploaded all the time."
Kalam creates media stars
The nice and slightly unusual twist with Kalam is that its contributors can genuinely find a way into working in the media through the portal, and some recent contributors have actually become media stars in their own right simply through creative blogs and video uploads. The great thing is that it is community focused and in the appropriate language for the region. The Farsi site grew fastest but the Arabic and Urdu are quickly catching up and will become equally popular.
Rackspace is always one step ahead
Hossein said, "The key to this dramatic reversal of fortune has been Rackspace. They are always one step ahead of the game. They totally understand our business; help us manage the growth and provide the essential scalability and strong technical support that we need to ensure ongoing success. In fact Rackspace has become our technical provider, helping us manage and build the portal and making the important calls on upgrades and necessary expansion even before they are actually needed. This takes an immense weight off our shoulders, allowing us to concentrate on creating and managing the content for the TV and Internet activities".
High value advertisers attracted
Hossein went on to say, "The success of the Kalam site has been very plain for all to see. In fact we are now attracting some very high value advertisers, who have reacted favourably to the rapidly increasing visitor numbers. Our future plans include development of an iPhone, iPad and Kindle compatible portal with full access to our content, videos and streams."
The perfect partner
Hossein concluded, "It's an exciting time for us and for the development of interactive media and user generated content in the region. Al Aan and Kalam were built for the people and their immense popularity has fully justified the investment. It's great to have a partner like Rackspace to provide the support, encouragement and technical expertise on the way.
Rackspace EMEA Managing Director is Brian Thomson. "We are very proud to have been involved in the set up and management of Al Aan TV and Kalam websites. To be connected at an early stage with such a ground-breaking project, and to watch it develop and blossom so dramatically, has been very satisfying for the whole team. We are looking forward to the continued success and growth of the sites, and hope that in a small way we have contributed to helping in the cultural and educational development of the Middle East.
If you want to experience Al Aan then visit their site at www.alaan.tv/ or www.kalam.tv/fa/. For world hosting there is no better choice than Rackspace. You are welcome to browse the website at www.Rackspace.co.uk or please call for FREE hosting advice on 0800 988 0100.