Turkey’s economic crisis is stunting streamers, prompting local subscriber services to slash prices and join bundled telecom offerings, leaving little room for Netflix and Amazon, which both account for less than 5% of the market.
Still, depreciation of the Turkish lira — which has lost 40% of its value against the U.S. dollar from a year ago — could prompt international streaming giants to grow their presence in Turkey, says IHT Markit analyst Constantinos Papavassilopoulos.
He says the crisis has made Turkey a particularly price-sensitive market, where a vast majority of the country’s 3.9 million OTT consumers now subscribe to cheap online bundled pay TV packages from the nation’s dominant telcos: Turkcell, Türk Telekom and Vodafone.
What Turkey’s currency plunge offers, he says, is a great opportunity for Netflix to acquire and create more shows beyond its lavish first Turkish original supernatural/fantasy drama “The Protector,” produced by Saudi-owned 03 Medya, and expected to air this year.
Meanwhile local platform BluTV is bowing the country’s first vampire series titled “Yaşamayanlar,” which translates as “Those Who Live.”
PuhuTV, after scoring a smash hit with so-called super series “Phi,” about a celebrity psychiatrist who is a compulsive womanizer, followed up with “Persona,” in which a man who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s becomes a serial killer on a mission to punish criminals.
In March, Dogan Media Group sold most of its assets to Demiroren Holding, a company that is much more friendly toward Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but held on to BluTV, which it has launched in the Middle East and Germany and plans to expand to Latin America, all areas where appetite for Turkish scripted content is strong.
Sources say in 2016 when it launched in Turkey, Netflix was interested in buying the Dogan Media catalog before the introduction of BluTV under that brand the same year. But Dogan Media decided to go alone and bow BluTV instead with the first Turkish streaming series, titled “Masum” (“Innocent”).
“What the big Turkish companies like Dogan understood is that they need to keep Turkish drama content under their belt, because Netflix, and probably tomorrow Amazon and Starz Play, and maybe even Hulu, are interested in acquiring that content not only to further penetrate the Turkish market, but to exploit it internationally,” says Constantinos Papavassilopoulos, principal research analyst for MENA at IHS Markit Research.
And that is exactly what Dogan is doing.
In Turkey, BluTV operates on a business model in which more than 80% of its content is free and only 20% of its costs are paid for by the Turkish market.
Interestingly, in the Middle East the BluTV channel now is being offered by Jawwy TV in Saudi Arabia despite Saudi-owned MBC pulling Turkish content off its airwaves. Those in the Turkish industry widely believe the move was dictated by political tensions between the two countries. But having BluTV on Jawwy clearly shows that the Saudis don’t want to break ties wholly with the Turks as long as it makes business sense.
Turkey’s economic downturn of course is impacting free-TV, where advertising revenues have been plunging. But linear TV is expected to continue to be strong no matter the hardships because the country is primarily a free-to-air market with a roughly 30% pay-TV penetration also largely including OTT.
The difference now is a shift in the balance of financial power that is largely in favor of the international streaming services in a market that they have not penetrated well.
As IHT Markit’s Max Signorelli notes: “because of the extreme way that the currency fluctuation has gone, it really is in Netflix and Amazon’s interest to buy that content and get into the [Turkish] market now.”
But he cautions it’s still uncertain they will take the plunge because the downward economic spiral could be seen as a risk.