How Turkish drama is fuelling growth by using FAST & miniseries

Golden Boy

Miniseries & hard-hitting storylines, coupled with dedicated FAST channels & streamers, are creating exponential opportunity for Turkey’s scripted content in established regions but also new markets, writes Andy Fry.

The global export of Turkish drama has been one of the distribution success stories of the last two decades, with titles such as Magnificent Century, 1001 Nights, Ezel, Insider and Endless Love becoming household names and winning legions of fans worldwide.

Barely missing a beat because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the value of sales hit a record breaking $600m during 2022, according to figures released by the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (ITO).

Non-traditional market growth

A large part of this success is down to the continued popularity of Turkish drama in core markets including Latin America, Central & Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, India and the Middle East, where positive relations have been restored after a couple of frosty years. But there’s also a strong sense among distributors that Turkish content has adapted well to changes in the content business – seizing new opportunities.

One key development, says Eccho Rights director of Turkish drama Handan Ozkubat, has been progress in penetrating new non-traditional markets. Spain, Italy and Africa all joined the Turkish drama bandwagon in the pre-Covid era, and now France has followed suit – with M6 picking up Brave And Beautiful at MIPCOM.

According to Ozkubat, Eccho’s latest hit Golden Boy has sold to 100 territories, including Finland and Sweden. “We’ve established a strong presence in Sweden,” she says, “with the sale of dramas including The End and The Red Room as well.” Golden Boy also sold to MBC in the Middle East, underlining the recent rapprochement.

Just as significant as this expanding footprint has been the impact that Turkish drama exporters have had on both global and regional streamers. Goryana Vasileva, sales manager for OTT & Europe at Calinos, points to deals with the likes of Disney+, HBO Max, Amazon and Pluto, as well as regional players around the world. “One of our dramas, Deeply, had its debut on Serially in Italy in December,” she adds.

This trend is confirmed by most leading Turkish exporters, with Eccho’s Ozkubat citing sales to the likes of HBO Max (Lat Am), Shahid and Etisalat (MENA) and Amazon India. Global Agency founder and CEO Izzet Pinto says his company is now working with “dozens of VOD platforms”, while the company also struck its first deals with channels in Venezuela and Curaçao last year.

ATV Distribution head of sales Müge Akar is also pushing forward on both linear and streaming fronts. “This year we closed our first deals in Vietnam and Italy. As for the streaming platforms, we have expanded our reach via deals with the likes of Globoplay [in Brazil] and VIX and Canela TV in the US, with more to be announced.”

Inter Medya founder and CEO Can Okan says that MENA, CEE and Latin American streamers have become key customers, with its crime drama The Pit finding audiences on MBC’s Shahid in MENA and mini-series Naked breaking records on Brazil’s Globoplay.

Linking back to the previous point about geographic expansion, Okan adds that miniseries are also opening up territories that hadn’t normally acquired Turkish content. “We closed a package deal with Thailand’s Monomax, a leading SVOD platform, and struck a deal in Italy for crime drama series Interrupted, an edgy story about a journalist who loses his life and comes back in a different body.”

Leylifer was co-produced by Inter Medya and Colombia-based Caracol International

Keeping focus

An additional boost to Turkish drama’s streaming growth has been the launch of dedicated SVOD services. Public broadcaster TRT has launched Tabii, an international service available on platforms like YouTube and Roku for a fee, which runs hit series such as Resurrection Ertuğrul and Hold My Hand, with plans to introduce originals.

Also in the market is Kanal D Drama, an international offshoot of leading domestic broadcaster Kanal D. The service is currently in 15 countries and recently launched a 3,000-hour dubbed line-up on Amazon Prime Video in Chile and Colombia.

And while Turkey has always excelled in historical, crime and romance series, the changing customer base means there has been an evolution in the content line-up.
Global Agency, for example, is selling Fox Turkey hit Another Love, the story of “an anchorman and a prosecutor, drawn into an affair as they both seek to reveal the dark truth about a mysterious serial killer,” says Pinto.

ATV Distribution’s Akar says her company’s upcoming title Altın Kafes, based on Korean series The Last Empress, is an intriguing romance/thriller hybrid, focusing on a rich heir and idealist teacher who fall in love against the backdrop of an assassination attempt.

Safir, which centres on the eldest son of a wealthy family who returns to Turkey after being educated in the US, has been a success in ATV’s primetime and was recently licensed to Romania. “It has the local elements that make Turkish titles unique,” says Akar, “but it is universal at the same time.”

Inter Medya’s Okan adds that his portfolio encompasses traditional dramas, miniseries and films. “Our miniseries typically consist of between eight and 25 episodes with edgier and fast-paced narratives. They offer an opportunity to reach countries where there may not have been a previous habit of consuming Turkish scripted content.”

Examples include psychological thriller Respect, centred around a sociopathic character. Okan also notes that negotiations are underway with streamers and linear TV channels in Australia and Sweden for The Ivy and Dreams & Realities.

Kubra

Formats & co-productions

The Turkish contingent has also doubled down on scripted formats to grow its footprint. Global Agency’s Pinto cites deals in Bulgaria and has just sealed a remake for Another Love in Greece, while an unnamed US network is “evaluating” another project.

Underlining the thawing of relationships with the Middle East, Global Agency also licensed the format for 1001 Nights to MBC. Following another adaptation of this show in India, the MBC version, Sara, performed well and has been sold in Lat Am and CEE.

Others report similar successes. Romania’s Pro TV is remaking Eccho-distributed Insider, says Ozkubat, “and we have also just closed some format deals in India”. Another Romanian network, Antena 1, is up to four seasons on Calinos-distributed That’s My Life (locally known as Adela), says Vasileva. “Now the channel is remaking romantic comedy No: 309. We also licensed That’s My Life’s format to Africa.”

Such trends are apparent across the industry. ATV Distribution has licensed the formats for A Little Sunshine, For My Family, Foster Mother and Lifeline into markets including Mexico and Spain, says Akar. Mexico, meanwhile, has also been a hot market for Inter Medya, with formats rights to Red Scarf, Black Money Love and The Light of Hope all being picked up recently. Additional Inter Medya scripted format deals include Bitter Lands to Greece and Forgive Me to Iraq.

With global budgets for scripted content under pressure, Turkish firms have also become more open to collaboration, says Calinos’s Vasileva, who adds that her company is “trying to focus more on cross-border co-productions as well as partnerships with streaming platforms.”

Okan says his company’s co-production journey began with a partnership alongside NBCU’s Telemundo Global Studios, with Hicran and the first premium series, Blue Cage, now completed.

Following this milestone, Inter Medya signed a co-production agreement with Colombia’s Caracol International, resulting in a show called Leylifer. Most recently, Okan announced a co-production agreement with Mega Global Entertainment, led by Esperanza Garay. The first series from that partnership will be unveiled in January.

There are also new avenues for growth emerging. One area that Turkish content companies are starting to explore is FAST, which is well suited to scripted product from the country.

“We have done quite a few FAST channel deals in the US and Lat Am, for example with Samsung TV Plus in Brazil,” says Vasileva, while Okan adds that Inter Medya is “on the verge” of launching its own FAST channels in Lat Am and MENA.

For Turkish content creators and distributors, the direction of travel is clear.

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