SAT-7 PLUS: GOD’S LOVE MADE ACCESSIBLE
SAT-7 is once again pioneering in the Middle East and North Africa. SAT-7 PLUS, the region’s first on-demand streaming service of Christian content, launched in early 2021. Antoine Karam, Broadcast and IT Director, shares how this platform is a key element of SAT-7’s digital transformation.
“This new digital branch of SAT-7’s ministry is bringing God’s love to new places. To an arena where not only has SAT-7 not been before, but ministries generally are not present. For a whole new audience in the Middle East and North Africa – especially young people – this is a gamechanger,” says Antoine.
Today, people anywhere in the world can access SAT-7 programs in Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish on-demand, from any mobile device via an app as well as from their computer browser and soon, from any smart television. In sensitive contexts, they can watch safely, without having to share any personal information or being profiled by artificial intelligence. And once they have watched, they can share a program with anyone else – on social media or privately by direct messaging.
“On-demand content is the expectation of so many media users in the region today. SAT-7 PLUS not only makes us relevant in the contemporary media field, but more importantly, it makes our programming more available and accessible,” says SAT-7 CEO Rita El-Mounayer.
A movement, not a moment
Antoine is clear that being accessible is not only about adding a new technology – SAT-7’s digital transformation is much more fundamental than that. “It’s not enough to be available on these platforms – we must present an attractive image to those who find us,” he says. This is particularly the case for younger generations, who generally no longer watch television. Antoine, who is from Lebanon, also sees a general shift among young people, even those from Christian backgrounds. They are moving further away from Christ – or from religion generally – as they reject “outdated” customs and beliefs.
To reach the youngest generations with God’s love, then, requires renewed thinking. “We need to speak the language of Generation Z,” Antoine says. “So, we are going to where they are most comfortable: on their mobiles, and on social media. We have to be innovative; we have to present them with apps with an up-to-date, present them with apps with an up-to-date, colourful look and feel. We cannot present them with the same identity that we presented 25 years ago.”
Antoine feels the potential impact on young people of being able to easily access Christian cannot be understated. “Sometimes watching a single episode, or even watching a clip – even for just one minute – can be the moment that sets a person on a different course in life.”
Currently, new episodes aired on satellite are regularly added to SAT-7 PLUS, meaning they can reach audiences outside of SAT-7’s satellite can reach audiences outside of SAT-7’s satellite footprints, such as Middle Easterners living in Europe or the United States. SAT-7 PLUS breaks though the first barrier, the language breaks though the first barrier, the language barrier, by automatically loading the platform in Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, or English depending on where the user is located. They can then find the content that will most speak to them by navigating through a series of themes.
Viewers can also watch any of SAT-7’s satellite channels live on SAT-7 PLUS. They can message their feedback on programs through the platform, and in time, Antoine plans to add a live-chat feature that will enable them to receive responses in real time. For the very youngest viewers, who are increasingly watching via handheld devices or smart televisions, SAT-7 PLUS includes a built-in “Kids” section including parental controls.
Eventually, SAT-7’s language bases will produce content designed specifically for on-demand content, as well as for satellite. It is hoped that the on-demand platform will drive not only innovation, but cross-channel production – as users of streaming services are more likely to be comfortable watching dubbed or subtitled productions. This means a program produced in Farsi, for example, can also be watched in in Farsi, for example, can also be watched in Arabic – which is not only cost-effective but will help viewers feel connected to their brothers and help viewers feel connected to their brothers and sisters in other parts of the region.
Nurturing both branches
Satellite remains important to reach older generations who do still watch television, as well as for viewers for whom the Internet is inaccessible – although SAT-7 PLUS has built-in accommodations for those who can only access the Internet at certain times, such as the ability to download and watch offline or at lower bit-rates. Satellite programming remains important especially for programs from the education and social development brand SAT-7 ACADEMY, as lack of access to education and lack of access to Internet often go hand-in-hand.to Internet often go hand-in-hand.
“Presenting SAT-7 PLUS does not mean we are moving away from satellite,” says Antoine. “It’s important that we are available on both mediums, because they are reaching different audiences.” Antoine’s prayer, therefore, is for investment, so that SAT-7 can maintain both its digital platforms – which include social media along with SAT-7 PLUS – and its satellite channels.