Amidst a rise in available Arabic content online, a new cross-platform SmartTV app has launched to offer seamless video viewing and sharing.
The Fatooosh platform enables users to “push” YouTube videos from their smartphone devices to tablets, computers, or SmartTVs, sharing content with friends and family, or storing it for later.
“People are moving to this technology because it lets them watch the videos they want anytime anywhere,” explains iAraby co-founder Ahmed Albarqawi.
Currently, Fatooosh is only compatible with YouTube videos. But the iAraby team hopes to include new video sources in the future, eventually creating a Fatooosh TV channel that sells subscriptions for exclusive content through partnerships with specific TV producers – a similar model to Netflix.
To do so, they will invariably compete with Istikana, which inked a deal with Samsung to offer over 30,000 hours of video content on Samsung Smart TVs.
The app has already seen 6,000 downloads after just one week, mostly from users in Saudi Arabia, Albarqawi says. iAraby offers primarily Arabic content, curating videos to be in line with what they believe viewers will want to watch, even filtering content deemed immoral or inappropriate for their audience.
“You can visit our website and find the data that we have collected for Arabic users, after we see what they like to watch,” Albarqawi adds. Users can also offer recommendations for videos and series to be added to the Fatooosh channel.
Their filtered collection makes Fatooosh a unique aggregator of online video content tailored specifically for Arab and Muslim viewers. When it comes to inappropriate content, Albarqawi explains that, "The video about the Prophet Muhammed was a bad video that a lot of news talked about. It was on YouTube. But on Fatooosh, you won't find a video like that," he ensures. "We choose the data that appears."
By creating an original collection, screened for viewers in the Arab world, iAraby hopes to encourage users to view more Arabic content and expand the use of SmartTV technology.
The Rise of SmartTV in the Arab World
iAraby aren't the only ones to be delving into SmartTV technology and SmartTV apps in the region.
Gyrolabs, a startup that recently graduated from Flat6Labs in Egypt, is working on mobile and SmartTV apps that merge online video-sharing with smartphones and SmartTVs. Their first two channels, Arabic Cuisine and Remotak, allow users to share recipes and shows, respectively, through social networks on multiple devices and platforms.
The question remains: are these startups ahead of the market? Or are they pioneers in a field that's set to grow? (perhaps a little of both?) According to one Chinese production firm, Changhong, Smart TVs will penetrate 40 percent of the television market in the Middle East by 2015. Yet it's well-known that building a platform for SMS is still likely more lucrative in today's Middle East market than even an iPad application, so it's clear that these companies are targeting early adopters.
In any case, we'll be tracking growth rates and keeping an eye on these two to see how appetite for SmartTVs is developing.