Zaven Kouyoumdjian is a Lebanese TV celebrity, his top rated show Sire Wenfatahait on Future TV is now the longest running social talk show on any Arab satellite. The show has created a new genre in Arab talk TV and has marked some of the most unforgettable momentous Arab Television over the last decade. Best known for his controversial and edgy topics, Zaven speaks to an estimated 20 million Arab speaking audience. In our interview, we have spotted the light on his latest interactive media experiment “Sireh Online”, where he broadcasted two episodes online instead of TV; this was an awaited step from TV media producers in the Middle East so we tried digging into it more:
You are early adopter to technology in your profession: can you tell us more about your experience?
I believe in advancement and development. I started zavenonline.com which was the first interactive TV website. I was also the first to introduce the laptop to Arab Talk shows, and now I introduced the mini-pc. And of course I’m still working on developing the interactivity of zavenonline.com.
Our subject today is about the two episodes that went live online instead of TV as regular: what drove you to this new experiment and what was your expectations?
I think that media is in continuous development; Radio was once the major source of news, now it’s heard by a very small number of people, and mainly for music. I believe that one day TV might also be obsolete, that’s why I try to make use of “new media”.
What was something different from every TV broadcast episodes? Tell us more about the user experience: where people interacting more or confused more about the subject?
These episodes were dealt with as “experiments”. My aim behind them was to work on finding a perfect formula for an online talk show, and I’m still in this process. There were major differences between regular shows and “Sireh Online” shows. “Sireh Online” were chat sessions were everyone had the chance to say whatever he/she wants. The new technology resulted in more interaction; however it also resulted in more chaos.
Talking digits: what was the average original visit to your chat live during TV episode and the online broadcast episodes? What about the chat room visits after you went back on TV? Talk with us about other exciting statistics you would like to share with us?
Chatters were naturally more during “Sireh Online” than during regular episodes, because during “Sireh Online” they find the chance to chat with me personally. During the episode some people make use of the chat room to chat with other users regarding the topic being presented on TV.
Talking about success: Do you think it was successful or your expectations were different? What was your learning?
I cannot answer the success question, for as I said, what you saw was not the final project, they were just experiments to help us reach to the final stage, maybe then I can tell you if it was a success or not. However those experiments make me realize that as an Arabic community, we still don’t respect the internet and the chat rooms enough, most of us think of chat rooms as playgrounds. We still need to develop a certain aspect of respect towards these technologies, and try to use them seriously, and this takes some time.
Based on your experience: what are the features that you think it will make the audience interaction online for TV show work and become more effective? Is there any existing platform you like to set-up on?
Before any technical feature, the thing that should be first worked on is awareness. No matter how advanced the technology we use, it can never be effective if we do not create public awareness about it. I’m planning to start special awareness workshops to help people use the internet effectively and productively. We should appreciate the opportunities that are offered to us through the INTERNET, and use if for things other than MSN, facebook, or simple communication.
Do you see if you integrate online media with TV, it will be better or it will kill TV media in the long run like what’s happening with print media now-a-days?
As I said, Media is in constant development. Technologies do not kill each other, however they develop through each other. Radio developed through TV, and now TV and print media are developing through Internet, and maybe one day the internet will also develop through as new type of media. Development is a natural process and we shouldn’t be defensive against it.
This is the last question and it’s not a fiction one: Are you willing to move your live TV show to live online show if it continues promoting your success or you wouldn’t go to this extent?
Not at the time being, however if you are speaking about distant future, then this will most probably happen. That is why I’m working on “Sireh Online” experiments. Through them I am working on developing the perfect formula of an online talkshow, and when it’s fully cooked, I think that I can safely migrate to internet, provided that enough awareness and appreciation is created amongst our societies.
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