Arab food network Fatafeat expands with new series, online presence

Arab food network Fatafeat expands with new series, online presence
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The network has been seeking to adapt and innovate its content offerings to retain loyal fans and attract new audiences. (Supplied)
Arab food network Fatafeat expands with new series, online presence
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The network has been seeking to adapt and innovate its content offerings to retain loyal fans and attract new audiences. (Supplied)
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Updated 25 November 2022

Arab food network Fatafeat expands with new series, online presence

Arab food network Fatafeat expands with new series, online presence
  • Innovative content is key focus, says head Grigory Lavrov
  • ‘Escape Kitchen’ game with top chefs is latest offering

DUBAI: This month, Warner Bros. Discovery Channel’s Arabic food network, Fatafeat, gamified its culinary format for the first time with the launch of its latest series, “Escape Kitchen.”

Each episode features chefs — Manal Al-Alem, Tarek Ibrahim and Sumaya Obaid, among others — trapped in an escape room, with 45 minutes on the clock to win the game.

The network has been seeking to adapt and innovate its content offerings to retain loyal fans and attract new audiences.

In 2021, Fatafeat had to close its production studio in Dubai due to COVID-19 lockdown protocols just a month before Ramadan — a peak period for premium content — and switched to working remotely.

Although the pandemic and lockdown “increased pressure,” it also created new opportunities, particularly for entertainment and streaming providers, as “entertainment played a more prominent role in providing escape and comfort as the world navigated an unprecedented and challenging time,” Grigory Lavrov, head of Fatafeat and vice-president of marketing, local brands and franchise management in CEE & MENAT at Warner Bros. Discovery, told Arab News.




Grigory Lavrov, head of Fatafeat and vice-president of marketing, local brands and franchise management in CEE & MENAT at Warner Bros. Discovery. (Supplied)

“We encouraged more viewership time from our loyal viewers with the nostalgia and familiarity we provide and attracted a new generation of consumers by expanding our presence on social media through creative, short-form content, and, as a result, our audience reach and engagement increased by 50 percent,” Lavrov said.

In Ramadan 2021 alone, Fatafeat saw an 88 percent month-on-month increase in engagement on Facebook, garnering over 29.7 million video views. Its Instagram content enjoyed a 63 percent increase in reach during the same period, and YouTube content received 2.49 million views.

“Since its launch in 2006, Fatafeat has become a staple in every Arab household,” said Lavrov. “To sustain the brand’s strong resonance with the regional audience, Fatafeat has been creating a robust pipeline of fresh and unique content, which has been instrumental for us in attracting the new generation of consumers while continuing to entice our loyal fans,” he added.

The network is also “proactive and agile” in diversifying its platforms and expanding its reach through channels such as its mobile app, social media, over-the-top platforms, and even Alexa, becoming the first skill to be launched on the Arabic version. From next year, Fatafeat will also be present on the free-to-air channel Asharq Discovery.

The brand ventured beyond video by launching its first-ever podcast series in an exclusive collaboration with global audio streaming service Deezer last December. Since then, it has released over 100 podcasts and plans to roll out more in the future.

The network’s expansion from TV to social media and other platforms was “definitely strategic and corroborative with our aim to follow our audience and adjust to their evolving content consumption habits,” Lavrov said. “Therefore, we remain committed to continually innovating our content and maintaining omnipresence,” he added.

The network regularly conducts customer research to better understand the needs and demands of its audience to make informed decisions regarding innovating and growing the Fatafeat brand.

That said, Fatafeat is always on the “lookout for the next big thing” and is “motivated by what brews the interest of the regional audiences, which is highly dynamic and ever-changing,” Lavrov said.

Gen Zs have captured the attention of media owners, publishers and advertisers around the world and Fatafeat is no exception. A total of 72 percent of Saudi Arabia’s Gen Zs use TV on-demand and catch-up services regularly, according to a 2021 YouGov report.

They have “high expectations for creative yet easily consumable content with an attention span as short as eight seconds,” said Lavrov.

Podcasts, TikTok and Instagram Reels are popular among Gen Zs resulting in Fatafeat gravitating toward these platforms through initiatives such as its partnership with Deezer, and increased focus on TikTok and Instagram during Ramadan 2022.

“Whether it’s a never-before-seen format like our new culinary game show ‘Escape Kitchen’ or producing the first Arabic music playlist with food recipes as lyrics, Fatafeat likes to reinvent the wheel of Arab entertainment,” Lavrov said.

In line with this vision, the network is launching a digital educational series “Fatafeat and the CDA: Cooking in the Family,” which will promote awareness of the dietary needs for children of determination.

It is also launching two shows — “Chef on A Bike” on Dec. 22 and “Food Musical Show” in January 2023. The former follows the journey of a female Saudi chef with a group of motorbike riders from Jeddah to Dubai. She will meet with locals, view prominent landmarks, and experience the gastronomic culture of the Kingdom. “This show differs from our classic studio productions as it merges travel and food genres,” Lavrov said.

The latter, “The Food Musical Show,” is the first cooking musical offering on Fatafeat spotlighting an Arab family. “The show highlights the differences between generations, and viewers can expect a lot of challenges, frolic, singing, dancing, and of course, food,” he added.

Moving forward, the network seeks to diversify and expand. “We have a lot planned for 2023, but I can say for now that what’s next for Fatafeat will always be aligned with what’s next for our audiences,” said Lavrov.


Elon Musk: Twitter user signups at all-time high

Elon Musk: Twitter user signups at all-time high
Updated 27 November 2022

Elon Musk: Twitter user signups at all-time high

Elon Musk: Twitter user signups at all-time high
  • Signups were averaging over two million per day in the last seven days as of Nov. 16
  • Buying Twitter speeds up Elon Musk’s ambition to create an ‘everything app’ called X

Twitter chiefeExecutive Elon Musk says new user signups to the social media platform are at an “all-time high,” as he struggles with a mass exodus of advertisers and users fleeing to other platforms over concerns about verification and hate speech.
Signups were averaging over two million per day in the last seven days as of Nov. 16, up 66 percent compared to the same week in 2021, Musk said in a tweet late on Saturday.
He also said that user active minutes were at a record high, averaging nearly 8 billion active minutes per day in the last seven days as of Nov. 15, an increase of 30 percent in comparison to the same week last year.
Hate speech impersonations decreased as of Nov. 13 compared to October of last year.
Reported impersonations on the platform spiked earlier this month, before and in wake of the Twitter Blue launch, according to Musk.
Musk, who also runs rocket company SpaceX, brain-chip startup Neuralink and tunneling firm the Boring Company, has said that buying Twitter would speed up his ambition to create an “everything app” called X.
Musk’s “Twitter 2.0 The Everything App” will have features like encrypted direct messages (DMs), longform tweets and payments, according to the tweet.
In another tweet early on Sunday, Musk said he sees a “path to Twitter exceeding a billion monthly users in 12 to 18 months.”
Advertisers on Twitter, including big companies such as General Motors, Mondelez International, Volkswagen AG, have paused advertising on the platform, as they grapple with the new boss.
Musk has said that Twitter was experiencing a “massive drop in revenue” from the advertiser retreat, blaming a coalition of civil rights groups that has been pressing the platform’s top advertisers to take action if he did not protect content moderation.
Activists are urging Twitter’s advertisers to issue statements about pulling their ads off the social media platform after Musk lifted the ban on tweets by former US president Donald Trump.
Hundreds of Twitter employees are believed to have quit the beleaguered company, following an ultimatum by Musk that staffers sign up for “long hours at high intensity,” or leave.
The company earlier in November laid off half its workforce, with teams responsible for communications, content curation, human rights and machine learning ethics being gutted, as well as some product and engineering teams.


Iran’s Fars news hit by cyberattack

Iran’s Fars news hit by cyberattack
Updated 26 November 2022

Iran’s Fars news hit by cyberattack

Iran’s Fars news hit by cyberattack
  • Hacker group appears to have obtained staff personal information and government data

LONDON: Iran’s state media outlet Fars was hit by a cyberattack, the agency reported on Saturday.

The incident seems to be part of a larger operation aimed at discrediting the outlet, which is managed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and exposing sensitive government information.

Fars said that its website had been disrupted late on Friday by a “complex hacking and cyberattack operation.”

“Removing possible bugs may cause problems for some agency services for a few days,” it said in a statement posted on its Telegram channel.

“Cyberattacks against Fars news agency are carried out almost daily from different countries, including the occupied territories (Israel),” it added.

Fars has been heavily criticized for what critics say is its distorted reporting of recent protests that have swept Iran since the death of Mahsa Amini in mid-September.

The 22-year-old was arrested for an alleged breach of the country’s dress code for women and died while in the custody of the country’s morality police.

Hackers appear to have targeted the Twitter account of one of Fars’ managers and published a video on his profile.

The hacker group Black Reward on Friday claimed to have breached the agency’s database, and said it had obtained confidential bulletins and directives sent by the news agency to the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Iran has been targeted by several anonymous hacker groups in recent years.

In October, Black Reward published documents from Iran’s nuclear program after the government ignored hackers’ demands to release all political prisoners and protesters arrested during recent demonstrations.

In past weeks, the group has also hacked the emails of state-affiliated press and TV managers and employees, obtaining personal information.


Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage

Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage
Updated 26 November 2022

Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage

Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage
  • Video shows Palestinian Laila Odeh surrounded by people chanting anti-Arab slogans

LONDON: France24 correspondent Laila Odeh was harassed and verbally attacked by Israeli extremists as she spoke Arabic during live coverage from West Jerusalem on Wednesday.
A video of the incident shows the Palestinian journalist being heckled while covering the recent bomb attacks that took place in West Jerusalem.
The reporter was broadcasting live from Givat Shaul, one of the blast sites, when about 30 people tried to interrupt the live coverage.
In the video, Odeh is seen exchanging some words with a group of young people before they start surrounding the crew, stepping in front of the camera to block the broadcast.
“Excuse me, we’re live,” she said, to which one of the people replied: “I don’t care.” Odeh added: “You’re annoying me. Move away from here.”

 

 

Then the video shows her engaging in a verbal exchange before people around her started chanting anti-Arab slogans, forcing Odeh to cut the broadcast.
Some people in the group shouted “Death to Arabs”, “Arabs go to Russia” and “This is an Arab explosion.”
According to reports published by France24 following the incident, after the live broadcast people shouted to Odeh to “go to Gaza,” continued their insults and increased their aggressive behavior. France24 also reported that some people punched its cameraman and broke the camera tripod.
This is not the first time Odeh has been targeted by Israeli extremists. She was hit on the head and verbally abused while covering the Israeli nationalist Flag March in Jerusalem in May.
On Wednesday, Israeli police said bombs were detonated at two bus stops in West Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul and Ramot junctions, killing one Israeli and injuring 14 people, three of them seriously.
While no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, Israeli authorities imposed a broadcast ban on the investigation.

 


Elon Musk says Twitter’s ban on Trump after Capitol attack was ‘grave mistake’

This file combination photo shows Elon Musk (L) listening to US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington. (AFP)
This file combination photo shows Elon Musk (L) listening to US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington. (AFP)
Updated 26 November 2022

Elon Musk says Twitter’s ban on Trump after Capitol attack was ‘grave mistake’

This file combination photo shows Elon Musk (L) listening to US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington. (AFP)
  • Twitter said it permanently suspended him because of the risk of further incitement of violence following the storming of the Capitol

WASHINGTON: Twitter’s ban on then President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters was a “grave mistake” that had to be corrected, Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Friday, although he also stated that incitement to violence would continue to be prohibited on Twitter.
“I’m fine with Trump not tweeting. The important thing is that Twitter correct a grave mistake in banning his account, despite no violation of the law or terms of service,” Musk said in a tweet. “Deplatforming a sitting President undermined public trust in Twitter for half of America.”
Last week, Musk announced the reactivation of Trump’s account after a slim majority voted in a Twitter poll in favor of reinstating Trump, who said, however, that he had no interest in returning to Twitter. He added he would stick with his own social media site Truth Social, the app developed by Trump Media & Technology Group.
Republican Trump, who 10 days ago announced he was running for election again in 2024, was banned on Jan. 8, 2021, from Twitter under its previous owners.
At the time, Twitter said it permanently suspended him because of the risk of further incitement of violence following the storming of the Capitol. The results of the November 2020 presidential election won by Democrat Joe Biden were being certified by lawmakers when the Capitol was attacked after weeks of false claims by Trump that he had won.
Trump repeatedly used Twitter and other sites to falsely claim there had been widespread voter fraud, and had urged supporters to march on the Capitol in Washington to protest.
The attack is being investigated by US prosecutors and a congressional committee.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday on Musk’s statement that Trump did not violate any Twitter terms of service when his account was suspended.
Earlier on Friday, Musk tweeted that calling for violence or incitement to violence on Twitter would result in suspension, after saying on Thursday that Twitter would provide a “general amnesty” to suspended accounts that had not broken the law or engaged in spam.
Replying to a tweet, Musk said it was “very concerning” that Twitter had taken no action earlier to remove some accounts related to the far-left Antifa movement. In response to another tweet asking if Musk considered the statement “trans people deserve to die” as worthy of suspension from the platform, the billionaire said: “Absolutely.”
Change and chaos have marked Musk’s first few weeks as Twitter’s owner. He has fired top managers and it was announced that senior officials in charge of security and privacy had quit.

 


More security for UK-based Iran International after threats

More security for UK-based Iran International after threats
Updated 25 November 2022

More security for UK-based Iran International after threats

More security for UK-based Iran International after threats
  • Concrete barriers have been erected
  • Last week, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that armed police vehicles had been deployed outside the TV studios

LONDON: The Iran International TV channel on Friday said that further security measures have been put in place around its London offices after threats from the regime in Tehran.
Concrete barriers have been erected similar to those at key government buildings and tourist spots in the British capital, to prevent vehicle attacks.
The barriers were “guaranteed to stop a 7.5 ton truck at 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour,” a spokesman for the Persian-language channel said.
Vehicle access in and around the site would also be controlled and checks carried out, he added.
The threats were an escalation of years of intimidation because of its broadcasting of protests in Iran, the spokesman told AFP.
“We’re the only channel running 24/7 coverage of the protests,” he said.
But he added: “We’re not the voice of the protests. We’re the only means that people in Iran can see them.”
The spokesman, who asked not to be identified, stressed that Iran International was not an opposition channel and its staff were not activists.
“We were set up as a service for people in Iran and the diaspora,” he said.
Last week, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that armed police vehicles had been deployed outside the TV studios.
That followed “severe and credible” death threats against two of its UK-based journalists from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The UK government promptly hauled in Iran’s highest-ranking diplomat to the country for a dressing-down.
MI5, the UK domestic intelligence agency, has uncovered at least 10 plots by Iran to kill UK-based individuals deemed to be “enemies of the regime” so far this year, its boss said last week.
The channel employs about 100 staff in London, whose coverage of the protests largely involves sifting through and verifying social media content of the demonstrations.
Iranian staff were “more anxious” than panicked about the threats and more worried about the safety of their families back home, as well as the wider impact of the protests, said the spokesman for the channel.
“We all don’t know what the hell is going to happen. That’s stressful,” he said.