Streaming app for Ramadan TV shows launched in Egypt

Traditional Ramadan lanterns called "fanous" are displayed for sale at a stall, ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt on May 4, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 07 May 2019

Streaming app for Ramadan TV shows launched in Egypt

  • Every year, thousands of Egyptians spend fasting hours watching TV dramas, with others doing so in the evenings after breaking their fast

CAIRO: The Egyptian Media Co. has launched a new TV streaming app called Watch iT, which allows users to watch Ramadan shows for monthly or yearly subscription fees. It will initially host 15 shows.

Every year, thousands of Egyptians spend fasting hours watching TV dramas, with others doing so in the evenings after breaking their fast. For many, the free video website YouTube is their host of choice.

But the new app will mean that is no longer an option for many people, however, as the company has banned the 15 shows hosted on the Watch iT app from airing on YouTube.

The move will put many in a tight spot, forced either to see the shows on satellite TV, or to pay for the app.

The service, which is downloadable through Google Play Store and iOS, has garnered a lot of criticism from Egyptians on social media.

“I think the idea is doomed to fail. It’s just an attempt to create their own Netflix
and monopolize the market without studying it or understanding the nature of their audience,” Rafiq Mahfouz, a 25-year-old writer, told Arab News.

Watch iT comes at a price many Egyptians cannot afford to pay. Downloading the app is free, but actually watching the shows costs EGP 99 ($5.77) per month, with a partial subscription costing EGP 555 per year, and a full subscription EGP 999.

“They can’t monopolize this market without studying it very well. The service was announced two days ago, the app itself is quite a mess, the pricing is unreasonably high, and their service was down on the first day of Ramadan,” Mahfouz added.

Despite the massive launch and promotional campaign, users are complaining about technical issues and being unable to create accounts.

“The majority of Egyptians are not familiar with the concept of pay-to-watch. These TV dramas are mainly targeting the middle class, who cannot afford these prices,” said Mahfouz.

Other streaming platforms in Egypt, like Shoof Drama and Shoof Max, are offering their services for this year’s Ramadan shows for free on their websites.

Ramadan in Egypt is an enormous season for TV, with new programs and shows being released every year.

Bouteflika-era tycoon jailed for six months in Algeria

Updated 18 June 2019

Bouteflika-era tycoon jailed for six months in Algeria

  • Ali Haddad was earlier arrested in possession of two passports
  • Haddad is widely perceived to have used his links to Bouteflika to build his business empire

ALGIERS: Algeria’s top businessman Ali Haddad, a key supporter of ousted president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was jailed for six months on Monday for holding two passports, in the first conviction in a string of corruption probes.

The business tycoon was arrested in late March on the border with Tunisia in possession of two passports and undeclared currency, days before Bouteflika resigned in the face of mass protests.

Haddad, who owns Algeria’s largest private construction company, is the first high-profile figure with ties to Bouteflika to be jailed since the president stepped down on April 2 after two decades in power. He was found guilty of the “unjustified procurement of administrative documents” and also fined 50,000 dinars ($420), state television reported.

Described by Forbes as one of Algeria’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, Haddad is widely perceived to have used his links to Bouteflika to build his business empire.

The businessman, a key election campaign funder for Bouteflika, had denied breaking the law and said he obtained his second passport legally after seeking an interview with then-Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal.

The ex-premier and Haddad are among many businessmen and former politicians caught up in a separate anti-corruption investigation launched since the president stepped down.

Earlier this month Haddad’s lawyer, Khaled Bourayou, decried a “political trial” and told journalists the passport case had no legal basis.

The sentence is significantly lower than the 18 months term and fine of 100,000 dinars requested by the prosecutor.

Hassane Boualem, then-director of titles and secure documents at the Interior Ministry, was given a two-month suspended sentence and fined 20,000 dinars for issuing Haddad’s second passport in 2016.

He told the court he was following the orders of his superiors — Interior Ministry head Hocine Mazouz, Sellal and Algeria’s current premier, Noureddine Bedoui — who were not investigated over the affair.

Last week, a judge placed in detention two former prime ministers, Sellal as well as Ahmed Ouyahia, who served four terms as premier.

An investigating magistrate on Sunday conditionally released former Finance Minister Karim Djoudi as part of the corruption probes. Karim Djoudi, finance minister between 2007 and 2014, appeared before the supreme court’s magistrate in connection with the disappearance of public funds and abuse of office.

The supreme court is the only judicial body with jurisdiction over offenses committed in public office by government members, local officials and high magistrates.

Former Transport Minister Amar Tou was also conditionally released after appearing before the investigating magistrate.

Djoudi and Tou are among 12 former Algerian officials subject to preliminary probes for alleged criminal offenses.

Former Trade Minister Amara Benyounes has been detained in El Harrach prison, in an eastern suburb of Algiers, and former Public Works Minister Abdelghani Zaalane has been conditionally released.

Army chief General Gaid Salah, the key powerbroker in post-Bouteflika Algeria, vowed Monday that no one would be spared from the corruption probes.

The judiciary must “bring to justice all the corrupt regardless of their function or their social rank,” he said. “The fight against corruption knows no limit and no exception will be made to anyone... it’s time to settle accounts,” Salah said, adding it was “time to clean up our country.”

The graft probes have also seen a dozen Bouteflika-linked businessmen placed in preventative detention.

Demonstrations have continued since the ailing head of state stepped down, as protesters demand the fall of regime insiders and the establishment of independent institutions.