Aljazeera Network, the leading global news organisation, wanted to develop its own in-house system for Web site publishing and content management. Due to its close partnership with Microsoft over the past several years, the network now has a flexible and feature-rich Web site publishing and content management system—saving vital production time. It has already saved millions of U.S. dollars and no longer needs to pay royalties, licensing, and development costs.
Aljazeera Network, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, is an international news network and one of the top digital media and entertainment services in the Arab world. Founded in 1996, the network serves more than 50 million TV viewers.
Initially launched as an Arabic news and current affairs satellite channel, Aljazeera has since expanded into a network with several outlets, including the Internet, specialty subscription-based TV, and sports channels in multiple languages. The network launched its first Web-based news service in English in 2003, which experienced tremendous popularity, thereby increasing the efforts and costs required to support and sustain the service. This experience led Aljazeera to create its own development team with Microsoft. Aljazeera needed the development tools to produce a reliable and highly customisable secure set of content management and interactive services. A central requirement was to have 100 per cent ownership of what is now known as the Aljazeera Content Management System—which would free the company from paying royalties or licensing costs.
Rizwan T. Ahmad, Senior Web Engineer, Aljazeera Network, says: “Our management was interested in containing costs and improving efficiency by reducing our dependence on outsourcing. In the past, every time we wanted to introduce new features and services on the Web site there was a separate request for a price quotation.”
Having diversified into subscription-based media services, Aljazeera also required a single standardised solution for subscription membership, billing, and authentication management. Once again, Aljazeera decided to deploy an in-house developed subscription and billing system using Microsoft tools. Mohamed Mosilhy Gamal Edin, Application Web Designer and Developer, Aljazeera Network, says: “We started a project to integrate four different applications into one subscription and billing management system that would make it easier for managers to monitor performance and improve customer service.”
In 2007, instead of outsourcing, Aljazeera invited Microsoft to help with the development of a Web site for the Aljazeera Training Centre. The project started with the development of Aljazeera Content Management System using latest Microsoft development tools. The key to the new relationship was working with Microsoft at the highest level. As the partnership matured, new opportunities for collaboration arose.
Munjed I. Attili, Head of Software and Application Development, Aljazeera Network, says: “Being a leading news and media organisation puts enormous responsibility on us to keep up with latest technology trends that meet the highest levels of performance, security, and resilience. Microsoft has helped us to develop and deliver solutions that are customised to suit our business needs, ensuring smooth and stable services—whenever and however required.” Attili says: “Microsoft has assisted us in achieving our technological goals, which has freed us from financial and administrative implications to a great extent.”
Mohammad Hammoudi, Microsoft Country Manager for Qatar, says: “We put a premium on offering personal development and training to the Aljazeera team. This way, we support its ambition to develop its own content management system, as well as a subscription and billing toolset for its sport and entertainment channels.”
To develop the Aljazeera Content Management System, the organisation could have chosen one of two approaches:
• Buy a ready-made solution such as Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007
• Develop an optimised combination of modules, add ons, and services to deliver a flexible toolset capable of meeting any future requirements
Rizwan T. Ahmad says: “We decided to go in-house using Microsoft Visual Studio Team System, Microsoft SQL Server 2005 data management software, and the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 development system.”
The same tools have been used to develop and integrate the four applications for subscription management and billing for pay-TV channels. Gamal Edin says: “Having started in 2008, the solution is fully deployed and is in its third version now. We have used Web services to integrate our systems. We now have an end-to-end solution that manages activation and deactivation of subscriptions and supports different price structures depending on the country.”
The Aljazeera and Microsoft partnership has ensured that the network no longer needs to outsource the development and management of its Web sites and subscription and billing management service. Without a highly committed technical partner, Aljazeera would have continued to rely on outsourced vendors and disparate internal systems for Web site development. Rizwan T. Ahmad says: “The financial savings on Web site development by working with Microsoft tools amount to millions of U.S. dollars. And, at the same time, we’ve lessened our dependency on third parties.”
- All business requirements met. Aljazeera editors can change Web site content easily and offer new features without involving development and support services from third parties. The Aljazeera subscription and billing system has helped its encryption department to control and manage all aspects of subscriptions, pricing, automated renewals, and deactivations.
- No royalties and licensing fees. The network no longer pays royalties, extra licensing costs, and per-subscriber charges for its content management and subscription and billing systems. Rizwan T. Ahmad says: “Aljazeera has 100 per cent ownership of the solutions.”
- Flexible and scalable for future needs. In a competitive market for news services, Aljazeera has easily customised systems compatible with current and upcoming Microsoft technologies.
- User-friendly tools for editors. Aljazeera Content Management System has offered a toolset that is easy for users to understand. Training sessions for all Aljazeera Web sites are similar in content, which, in turn, saves time and money.
- Web developers use the solution with ease. Rizwan T. Ahmad says: “Aljazeera Web developers find the toolset easy to use in their daily work, largely because it was designed in consultation with them. It just works.”
- Standardised subscription billing improves customer service. Subscribers of the pay-TV channels from Aljazeera can now activate their accounts quickly, and access and pay for services easily in different
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Document published March 2010