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Turkish TV Reaches More Viewers Abroad

The Turkish TV wave is still going strong.

Turkish soaps and dramas continue to connect with hundreds of millions of viewers around the world, scoring top ratings across Latin America, after conquering the Middle East. They are now making new inroads in Central and Eastern Europe, South Africa and Asia.

Domestically, TV advertising revenues in Turkey grew to $1.3 billion in 2017, up from $1.22 billion in 2016, according to research and analytics firm IHS Markit.

“It’s been a good year,” says Izzet Pinto, CEO of Global Agency, the sales company that’s been crucial to the Turkish TV phenomenon. “Out of 70 different dramas produced in a year, only 10 are being exported. And only four or five of those become international hits.”

That, however, has been the case for the past few years.

Prentiss Fraser, exec VP and managing director at Fox Networks Group Content Distribution, says her challenge, after “an amazing year” in Latin America, is to “spend the next year going into English-language territories,” thanks to recent “multi-title deal in South Africa that gives us dubbed-language versions in English that we are going to produce in Los Angeles.”

Fox will launch several shows at Mipcom. Thriller “City of Secrets,” which reunites Turkish megastar Erkan Petekkaya with director Cevdet Mercan, is the most high-profile of the lineup. Both Petekkaya and Mercan worked on babies-switched-at-birth melodrama “Broken Pieces,” the most exported Turkish drama of 2016, sold by Global Agency to 81 countries.

“City of Secrets” is produced by Karga Seven Pictures, the L.A. outfit controlled by Germany’s Red Arrow, which opened an Istanbul outpost in January.
“Broken Pieces” had been produced by Endemol Shine Turkey, which shuttered in July after filing for insolvency.

According to insiders, as a startup they overspent, especially on stars. And though Endemol Shine was very successful in Turkey, the company was not prepared to sustain initial losses as startup costs. Turkish stars now demand six-figure salaries and series cost up to $800,000 per episode.

Interestingly, it’s been a year in which some star-driven Turkish dramas did not do as well as expected, at least domestically.

“Magnificent Century: Kossem,” a spin-off of “Magnificent Century,” the Ottoman-era skein that put Turkey on the global TV map, has underperformed locally despite starring one of the country’s highest-paid actresses, Beren Saat. But it’s still delivering sales and ratings abroad.

Another Ottoman drama, “Resurrection Ertugrul,” produced by pubcaster TRT, has become Turkey’s most popular show.

Though clearly aimed at a domestic audience, and steeped in nationalism that reflects President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies — its tagline is “A nation’s awakening” — it has been exported to some 60 countries, according to TRT’s deputy director general Ibrahim Erin.

Meanwhile, unscripted content from Turkey is becoming a lucrative export. Global Agency is launching 13 dramas and eight formats at Mipcom, including quiz show “Cash or Splash.” Reality show “Shopping Queen,” in which a group of teenage girls are given €500 ($590) and four hours to shop for the perfect outfit, is the biggest daytime format in Germany.

And Kanal D Intl., the sales company of Turkish conglom Dogan Media Group, has launched a division focused on co-productions and co-development deals with the international market, headed by former Endemol Shine Turkey exec Nilufer Kuyel.

“We don’t just sell ready-made, but also co-produce and co-develop content with global creators; it’s a different business model,” says Ozge Bulut Marasli CEO of Kanal D and its production companies.

The biggest novelty out of Turkey is shows made for OTT platforms. “Phi,” a psychological thriller about a celebrity psychiatrist, who is a compulsive womanizer, has been a huge hit on Puhu TV, a digital platform owned by Dogus Media Group. Now “Phi” is set to become the first Turkish drama to air in South Korea, in November, following a deal between Eccho Rights and Mint Media Group.

Eccho Rights, whose Turkish TV catalog grew 800 hours this past year, opened a Seoul outpost in April. Turkey and South Korea seem to have symbiotic rapport.
“There have been about 10 adaptations of Korean scripts in Turkey in the past two years,” says Eccho chief Fredrik af Malmborg.

The latest is “Cennet,” about a mother who intersects with the daughter she gave up for adoption and ensuing complications, an adaptation of South Korea’s “Tears of Heaven,” which Eccho will launch in Cannes.

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