Sky News Arabia wanted to create the most technically advanced news operation in the Middle East, using a cloud-based mapping platform to highlight news coverage from all countries on its website. The recently launched Arabic language channel
chose Bing Maps from Microsoft due to its flexibility, cost effectiveness, and local support. Microsoft is now a strategic partner, with further developments planned for the future.
Sky News Arabia is a 24-hour, Arabic-language rolling news channel broadcasting in HD quality from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. A joint venture between Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corporation (ADMIC) and BSkyB, the United Kingdom’s leading pay television
provider, the channel offers independent news across multiple media platforms to audiences across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Launched in May 2012, Sky News Arabia delivers news through a comprehensive multimedia offering, including an interactive website and mobile apps for iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, and Nokia devices. In addition to satellite and cable TV broadcasts,
millions of viewers across the MENA region now enjoy live streaming of news broadcast over the Internet on their smartphones, tablets, or PCs. Key features include photo and video galleries, as well as the ability to share stories through social media. The
website already has live interactive maps and the ability for users to interact and comment on topics of the day.
Thair Soukar, Head of Digital Strategy, Sky News Arabia, says: “We wanted to make our channel as interactive and attractive as possible for our viewers so that with one click on the map—for example, on Syria—the whole timeline of news and other features
for that country is displayed. We needed to appeal to a generation in the MENA region that is familiar with social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter by having a modern, vibrant approach to site navigation.”
After a thorough comparison of available mapping services, Bing Maps from Microsoft emerged as the most flexible and cost-effective solution for the Abu Dhabi–based news channel. Sky News Arabia was already an existing Microsoft customer for certain software
delivery requirements, and, as a result, its developers were familiar with the technology and development framework.
Soukar says: “The key factor in our decision was that Microsoft was more prepared to accommodate all our requirements for customizing the mapping platform in line with our unique requirements as an Arab news organization. That was the deal maker.”
The technical aspects were next. Soukar says: “The cloud-based infrastructure for Bing Maps delivers the latest map content with regular refreshes. It provides the scalability, security, and performance that our news channel depends on to maintain its reputation
Microsoft offered comprehensive local support for Bing Maps in Abu Dhabi, helping the channel launch on time in May 2012, with the mapping technology supporting news feeds. Soukar adds: “We were really pleased with the enthusiasm shown by the Bing Maps team
in the United Arab Emirates, which is providing ongoing support as we develop new mapping services for features such as blogs, photo galleries, and videos.
“Sky News Arabia is impressed by the excellent mapping coverage and high-quality images in Bing Maps, where each square foot of ground has an exact coordinate associated with it, represented by one visual pixel on the map. Vivid photorealistic images with
features such as Streetside and Bird’s Eye views present data in context, while simplifying navigation.”
Sky News Arabia wanted a feature-rich mapping solution to support its website and broadcasting services covering the Middle East and North Africa. The quality of data displayed in Bing Maps, aerial imagery, and local support in the United Arab Emirates helped
to differentiate the Microsoft offer. Microsoft also delivered a flexible cost-effective licensing arrangement.
News channel gains local support and greater flexibility. Soukar says: “Microsoft had the more cost-effective and flexible solution with Bing Maps for our mapping requirements, with local support available.
This was vital in the countdown to launching the new service and in managing local sensitivities about place and country names.”
Sky News Arabia gets free access to Bing Maps for video broadcasts. The flexible licensing arrangements available to Sky News Arabia are helping to support services for the news channel. Soukar says: “In addition to licensing the Bing Maps
platform to build interactive mapping applications on our website, as a broadcaster we can also use Bing Maps in video broadcasts free of charge.”
Microsoft enters strategic partnership with Sky News Arabia. Soukar says: “Microsoft is offering us a strategic partnership to develop new uses for Bing Maps within our service offering. We see great potential for making additional applications
available to users of iPad, iPhone, and other mobile devices, including Windows Phone 8.”
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