Facebook is clearly the dominant social network in the Middle East, with over 34 million users in the region and UAE Facebook penetration rates among the highest in the world. Despite that, in an interesting move, Middle Eastern network, MBC has announced a partnership with Google. In it, the search giant’s social network Google+ is playing a prominent role, so to speak, in its experimental show, 04 (zero-four).
04, which premiered in January on MBC4, has set itself apart from other regional TV shows, focusing on social media interaction with its fans, with a presence on Google products YouTube and Google+, as well as putting Facebook and Twitter to good use.
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Social media use for the MBC4 cast isn’t about connecting the actors with their fans, but rather gives extra insight into the characters of the show themselves.
All of the tweets, updates, and interactions revolve around the fictional characters. Each character has a dedicated Facebook page, all of which can be found through the TV show’s official Facebook page. On Google+, a few lucky fans were also given the chance to take part in a Google+ hangout with one of the show’s character, Nadine.
The Google+ hangout certainly got the attention of its viewers, and the YouTube recording received over 200,000 hits in just 48 hours, while 04’s YouTube channel has earned almost half a million views overall. 04 is also one of the only Middle Eastern TV shows to make its full length episodes available online for free.
On character Facebook pages, users can be seen interacting directly with the characters, up until now, despite the fact that the pilot season has ended. This approach of giving viewers the chance to interact with the characters themselves is a novel concept for a Middle Eastern audience and it will be interesting to see how the idea develops.
With 04, MBC is heralding a new form of entertainment in the region, bringing the worlds of television and Internet closer together. While the focus in the Middle East has primarily been on e-commerce and mobile technology, this may be a hint of more to come in the world of Middle Eastern online entertainment, as Internet penetration continues to grow across the region.
Mazen Hayek, Official Spokesman & Group Director of PR & Commercial at MBC Group, said, “The new tie-up with Google represents a ‘win-win’ for all parties concerned. We launched the 04 experience because we believe in the need to evolve the TV experience and embrace the digital habits of our youth audience, using all the platforms available to engage in very direct and personal ways with viewers. Simply put, 04 is about making those connections and promoting conversations; and Google’s recent launch of their Google+ social media platform aims to encourage exactly that. This is a natural fit for both of us.”