Posts Tagged ‘Monatov’

Name of Project: Bassem Youssef Show

Country: Egypt

Key Players: Tarek el-Qazzaz (Funder) , Dr. Bassem Youssef (Presenter)

Type: Political Satire digital show

Founding date: 8 March 2011

YouTube Channel:

Facebook Page:

Twitter Handle: @DrBassemYoussef

Key Decision: Selling exclusive rights to ONTV channel for the show to be produced in HD studios and broadcasted on the privately-owned satellite channel

Revenue model: Licensing and Advertisements

Next Steps: innovative plan for the show on the web in 2013 (undisclosed)

While digital entrepreneurship is thriving in Egypt and believed to be the endpoint of many innovative projects,  some innovators took it the other way round. One example is Tarek el-Qazzaz, Founder & Managing Partner of QSoft Ltd in Egypt, who does Internet to TV production. Tarek, uses the web as a potential for later conversion into other offline mediums as he did with the Bassem Youssef show, the first political satire show in Egypt that is John Stewart style. Launching in March 2011, it was a big hit in Egypt in the aftermath of the overthrow of Mubarak’s regime and what looked then like the transformation to democracy.

Tarek found in his friend, Bassem, the skills that make him a different taste of media. Tarek decided to take it first to the internet where they built their Facebook page and YouTube Channel back in March 2011. It was a pilot work producing 5 or 6 episodes, getting audience’s feedback and testing the market for the next step. Four months later, the team moved from Bassem’s apartment, where they shooted the videos, to HD Studios in Egyptian Media Production City (EMPC) for a 3 Million EGP deal (nearly $500,000) with ONTV channel. The channel ranks the first news channel watched in Egypt according to Ipsos market research in November 2011. The Initial cost of producing the show digitally was less than $12,000.

The “extremely successful” deal, as Tarek describes it, includes all related costs from production to salaries of the team behind it. There’s no hidden formula for the success of this show as it’s driven by two apparent factors. The first success factor is the talent that Bassem possesses (he still practices medicine), his hard work and endless eagerness to develop new skills and improve this show. In other words, Bassem continually strives to improve his skills, something that is lacking among Egyptian presenters.

The second factor is having an institutional back-up through QSoft that plans ahead how to take the show to the next level. The company’s focus is internet production but the goal is cross platforms. Even when the show moved to TV, the episodes published online still attracted its own advertisements. Viewership jumped from quarter a million on the web to 2.5 million when the team moved to ONTV.

Measures of this success, Tarek says, can be summed up in the following: a) subscriptions to the Facebook Page and YouTube channel, b) sentiments and the number of likes, positive feedback received and also includes measures of interactivity, c)number of comments, d) expectancies of the audience and last but not least the number of views.


Competition was not big for the first Egyptian political satire show. Although there was another similar in-a-way show called “Monatov” that even had more views, yet the level of interaction in terms of “likes” and sharing the episodes was not even comparable to Bassem Youssef’s. Monatov, presented by a young actress, was only done out of fun and did not have a vision which is why it soon came to an end.

Bassem Youssef quickly became a “brand that carries itself” as Tarek puts it. The show was built from scratch creating a production team that did not exist. Based on the skills, people were hired as full-timers or even volunteered in the crew. It officially became an internship hub too giving internship certificates and recommendations.

It is worth noting that Bassem Youssef Show was the first business for Tarek, but, he knew how to play it well. Seeing the first episodes spread virally, friends of Tarek would come to him and say: This is your lifetime opportunity, invest all you can in this show. However, Tarek was smart not to throw in a lot of money. He just threw enough.

“Balancing between how much you should spend to accomplish which result is very important. If we spent 2 million EGP to get 500,000 views, it will not be economically viable”, Tarek added.

But, Tarek was not only looking for the business side of it. He had a message to deliver. The team negotiated the deal with many interested Egyptian TV channels even the pan-Arab news channels Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya. Many of the potential buyers were only in for the humor while the team was looking for a complete uplift for the show. They even surveyed their Facebook fans on which channel they would like to see the show on and not surprisingly, ONTV was the first choice.

As Tarek gets ready to handle the digital side of the Bassem Youssef brand next year with a new innovative plan, he is taking another digital production of his company called “Amira fil Matbakh” (Amira in the Kitchen) to catering business. The cooking show, which started in December 2011, got more than 50,000 fans for 5 episodes and it’s Tarek’s latest market hit.

This research was done based on Skype calls with founders of and co-founders of booming digital media start-ups in the Arab world. Interviews were conducted in February and March 2012 originally for Tow Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at City University of New York (CUNY).