Turkish Drama is expanding around the World. How?

In two previous articles on drama programming from Turkey (see links below) we have described the reasons why it has been occupying screen time slots at various countries around the world, replacing Hollywood series and Latin American telenovelas at major broadcasters elsewhere.

As described in these reports, this has been possible --among other reasons-- because a number of Turkish producers and distributors emerged in the Nineties, after the opening of several private television channels in that nation, in addition to Public Television network TRT. These companies found it necessary to monetize their product in other nations, in addition to local revenues, in order to sustain quality standards that would make its contents competitive with foreign programming coming to Turkey.

The opportunity came between 2010 and 2012, when U.S. output turned to more intricate content --branded as “complex television”-- with the success of Mad Men, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and other premium programming that also influenced basic television. At the same time, series appreciated in Europe, such as CSI: Las Vegas, were cancelled. Coincidently, Latin American telenovela producers kept turning out many titles with plots rewritten from former hits that were not standing up to the requirements of Central and Eastern European markets, its audiences emerging from the “rich man - beautiful poor girl” dichotomy to facing moral issues related to the evolution of their nations.

The Turkish government and exporters associations have fostered this export trend with awards and support to the most effective companies, bestowed in 2016 to Kanal D by the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM), in 2017 to Global Agency by the Turkish Electro Technology Exporters’ Association (TET). On the other hand, foreign distributors such as Somos Distribution and Latin Media, started in 2014-2015 to promote Turkish content in Latin America and the US Hispanic markets, adding to its increased visibility.

Seven companies may be identified as the major players in this worldwide drive that has resulted in Turkey having exported TV content for 350 million dollars in 2017 --becoming the second largest drama exporter in the world, after the United States-- and expecting to sell around 1 billion dollars by the year 2023; this, because it has entered other content genres, in addition to drama. As part of this thematic expansion, the industry is currently exporting formats such as Exathlon, produced by Acun Medya and already premiered in key Latin American markets such as Brazil (Band), Mexico (TV Azteca) and Colombia (RCN); a U.S. Hispanic version is being readied up by Telemundo. Inter Medya and Global Agency have also added entertainment formats developed by local creative teams.

The major Turkish drama content players list --known as "The Big 7"-- features Kanal D; Inter Medya; Global Agency; Eccho Rights --based in Sweden--; Calinos --operated by a large holding that includes agriculture and livestock farming, among other activities--; ATV, the leading terrestrial TV channel in 2017, with a 9,87% (total viewers, all day) and 10,20% (total viewers, prime time) audience share; and Mistco, an independent distributor specialized in sales of public television network TRT content sales, with an inventory that also features documentaries and animation as well as drama.

According to data provided by these sources, Latin American represents more than 25% of their business, with highlights such as Mega TV in Chile, featuring Turkish product during 14 hours per day, and Imagen TV in Mexico, with 7 hours; leading Argentine broadcaster Telefe assigns them more than four hours per day.

Flexible agreements
Another reason for Turkish product gaining market share in various countries around the world is that, contrary to what happens with Western European and some U.S. producers --although there has been a certain opening on this by Hollywood in the past five years--, its companies are accepting deals that open new screens, even markets to them, at the expense of adapting their corporate culture to the conditions prevalent in those countries.

Global Agency has been the first company to enter the Latin American markets with its 1001 Nights sale to Chilean broadcaster Mega. To accomplish this, it accepted Mega’s requirement of local dubbing, by Chilean dubbing house DINT, instead of the standard centralized ‘neutral Spanish’ that is increasingly resisted when there is an active need to compete in a certain market. Sports-reality format Exathlon could be another example of this flexibility: after TV Azteca successfully screened it, other regional deals have been channeled through it. The Mexican company has been responsible for licensing this format to Telemundo, while Acun Medya is in charge of the production.

Inter Medya, among the top 3 Turkish distributors, has an agreement with Colombian producer DMomento to co-produce dating/reality show The Perfect Couple. Eccho Rights, in addition to being a top seller of Turkish drama in Latin America, has built a reputation for being a ‘truly global distributor’ with drama and formats from Europe, Asia and Latin America: it has been the first company from the "Big 7" to sign up Latin American original dramas for worldwide distribution.

Kanal D has launched a linear Pay TV channel, Kanal D Drama, in Spanish language with drama content from its inventory, distributed by Thema, based in France; in 2017, it signed a co-production agreement with Mega Chile.

For more on this matter, see:
-The Turkish TV industry is giving Hollywood a run for its money. How and why?
-Turkish TV drama: Why is it conquering world markets?


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