The Ottomans are back, and they’re far from alone.
Turkey is the honored guest at Mipcom this year, and attendees will be among the first to glimpse the country’s most anticipated show, “Magnificent Century: Kosem.” The costume drama from TIMS Prods. follows on the heels of global bestseller “Magnificent Century,” above, picking up four generations after the reign of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent.
“Kosem” takes its name from the most influential woman in Ottoman history, who served as wife, mother and grandmother to four Ottoman sultans, and the story of her struggle for power is sure to offer the blend of history-inspired intrigue and high production values that made “Century” a favorite from Russia to Egypt to Chile.
“Kosem” and “Century” distributor Global Agency brings a war chest of programs that have led Turkey to trail only the U.S. in terms of drama export.
Series such as “1001 Nights,” “Love and Punishment” and “Broken Pieces” are among the most successful Turkish dramas globally, and Global CEO Izzet Pinto notes that Turkish entertainment formats are equally hot, with perennial favorite sellers such as “Shopping Monsters” joined by the new comedy/singing variety show “Is That Really Your Voice,” which is taking China by storm.
For Ozlem Ozsumbul, head of sales and acquisitions at Turkey’s Kanal D network, the shift from buyer to seller at Mipcom has been a rapid one. Though Turkish content started traveling abroad in 1998, it was the 2008 airing of Kanal D’s rags-to-riches love story “Gumus” that brought a sea change. The show garnered such interest in the MENA region that it started airing daily, burning through 100 90-minute episodes between April and August, when an audience of 85 million tuned in for the finale. This cemented the role of Turkish content for MENA, supplementing a steady interest in the Balkans that had started with the 2003 mafia crime drama “Valley of the Wolves.” It was the 2011 Discop conference in Istanbul, however, that saw Turkish drama moving further afield, as “Magnificent Century” began the conquest which has, to date, brought it to more than 60 territories.
The hottest new market is Latin America, and Pinto chalks up the wild success there of shows such as “Century” and “1001 Nights” to the blend of family-oriented conservative content and big budget. Ozsumbul, whose programs are airing on channels including Televisa, TV Azteca, Mega TV, Telemundo and Univision, adds that the fusion of familiar dramatic themes and exotic Istanbul locations lends the shows a special charm when moving abroad.
Ziyad Varol, digital and licensing manager for ATV, notes that the Latin American market was once “like a dream” seen by most in the Turkish sector as “impossible.” With ATV now running sales in 14 Latin American countries, led by love-triangle drama “Sila,” the dreams have shifted to Southeast Asia, as its “Peace Street” recently sold to Indonesia, and countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam may be next on the list.
The burst of Turkish content in the past five years has not come cheaply or easily. Production costs are high (one 20-minute war scene in “Century,” for example, ran $500,000) and the failure rate for programs is even higher. In a fiercely competitive domestic market where roughly 40 new dramas air each season, Pinto notes that the majority don’t make it past the fifth episode, only five or six are renewed for a second season and only three or four hit the international market.
This selection process leaves a lot of good shows drowned in the wake, but it also means that those that find their way to Mipcom have a good chance of running strong, wherever they might land.