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CONTENTS Country Of Honour 2015 8
Turkey’s got talent 33
Why we love dizis 36
Ibrahim Caglar, president of the executive board, Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, introduces Turkey, Country Of Honour
We profile five artists who epitomise Turkey’s vibrant creative scene
Turkish TV dramas — known as dizis — have become one of the most popular cultural exports in recent years
A tradition of storytelling 10 Andy Fry explains how Turkey’s audiovisual industry was built on the country’s rich culture and tradition of storytelling
Who’s who in Turkish media 16 We speak to some of the key figures at the head of Turkey’s burgeoning audiovisual industy
The billion-dollar prize 21 Turkey is aiming to export $1bn worth of TV content by 2023
6 Welcome to Turkey 24
Making history 34 Turkish dramas that are currently capturing the most international attention are the country’s lavish period pieces
If it’s good enough for Bond... 38 What you need to know about shooting in Turkey
ESSENTIAL TURKEY 34
With a population of 80 million and one of the world’s top-20 economies, it’s no surprise that foreign content companies want to break into Turkey
Time, investment and understanding 27 What are the dos and don’ts of doing business in Turkey?
Well-connected 29 Turkey’s booming media industry is being increasingly driven by internet access and online advertising
ESSENTIAL TURKEY – October 2015 – MIPCOM News Special Report. Director of Publications Paul Zilk Director of Communication Mike Williams EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT Editor in Chief Julian Newby Technical Editor in Chief Herve Traisnel Deputy Technical Editor in Chief Frederic Beauseigneur Graphic Designer Carole Peres Sub Editor Jo Stephens Proof Reader Debbie Lincoln Contributing Editor Andy Fry Contributor Juliana Koranteng PRODUCTION DEPARTMENT Publishing Director Martin Screpel Publishing Manager Amrane Lamiri Co-ordinator Emilie Lambert Production Assistant, Cannes Office Eric Laurent Printer Riccobono Imprimeurs, Le Muy (France) Reed MIDEM, a joint stock company (SAS), with a capital of €310.000, 662 003 557 R.C.S. NANTERRE, having offices located at 27-33 Quai Alphonse Le Gallo - 92100 BOULOGNE-BILLANCOURT (FRANCE), VAT number FR91 662 003 557. Contents © 2015, Reed MIDEM Market Publications. Publication registered 4th quarter 2015. Printed on 50% recycled paper.
ESSENTIAL TURKEY • OCTOBER 2015
Turkey Country of Honour 2015
HAT does it mean to Turkey to be MIPCOM Country Of Honour? To be Country Of Honour at MIPCOM 2015 is a grand opportunity to show the world that Turkey is a powerful producer of visual culture and a competitive player at international level. The Country Of Honour programme also provides a one-ofa-kind international platform for Turkish dealmakers and content creators to forge global partnerships, seal distribution deals and establish new networks with their peers, opening up new co-operation areas for the sector. What do you hope that MIPCOM delegates from around the world will learn from the Country Of Honour this year? Participants of MIPCOM will learn that Turkish TV series have gained widespread acceptance from the Latin American, Middle Eastern and North African countries. One of the strongest TV series producers in the world, Latin America, today has become one of the top importers of Turkish series. The total volume of export to 75 countries reached $200m in 2013 (up 20% at the end of 2013). $1bn in exports is targeted for the year 2023. What types of Turkish content sells best around the world and where are the strong markets for this content? Turkish TV series have found an important
MIPCOM delegates will learn a great deal about this vibrant country and its audiovisual industry in the coming days. Ibrahim Caglar, president of the executive board, Istanbul Chamber Of Commerce (ICOC) introduces Turkey, Country Of Honour place in markets such as the Middle East, the Balkans, North Africa and Latin America. Additionally, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russia, China and India are the new entries to the TV series market in Turkey. Moreover, Japan seems to be a promising market for Turkey in the upcoming years. Noor, Magnificent Century, As Time Goes By, 1001 Nights, Lovebird, Love And Punishment, Forbidden Love and The Fall Of Leaves are some of the most exported Turkish TV series to foreign countries. Noor has become one of the most viewed TV series around the world and its final episode has been watched by 84 million people in the Middle East. How easy is it for international producers who want to film in Turkey? Foreign film producers, directors and companies who would like to shoot a movie or film (a documentary, theatrical feature, TV film, TV series, TV programme, short film, video clip or advertisement) in Turkey have to apply to the Directorate General of Cinema and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to obtain a film permit. Foreign film producers are able to get a refund of VAT. Legal regulations are in progress in order to provide direct financial support for foreign film producers. Turkey has a strong film heritage. After Yılmaz Guney’s film Yol won the Palme d’Or in 1982, Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s film Kis Uykusu (Winter Sleep) became the second Turkish film to win this award at the
67th Cannes Film Festival 2014. And Istanbul is one of the most beautiful and unique cities in the world. The doors of Istanbul Chamber of Commerce are wide open for all who want to invest in Istanbul. Local content is popular in Turkey. What imports are popular in Turkey? And from which countries? Foreign TV programme formats are very popular in Turkey. Turkish people are interested in competition and reality shows, and the adaptation of British TV formats is increasingly common. In what ways does the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce assist the audiovisual/content industries in Turkey? Our Chamber has been organising the national participation at MIPCOM since 2011. After signing the Guest of Honour Country Protocol in October 2014, we have conducted activities with the leading sector representatives. As one of the five biggest chambers of commerce in the world, our sectoral work is not just limited to MIPCOM. We have been to Algeria, India and Malaysia to promote our TV series and film products, and we have met Bollywood representatives in India. At the same time, in co-operation with the Culture and Tourism Ministry, we have conducted the first collective report on the different elements of the TV series industry as Istanbul Chamber of Commerce.
“Our Chamber has been organising the national participation at MIPCOM since 2011” ESSENTIAL Turkey • OCTOBER 2015
Hits from Turkey: 1001 Nights; Elif; Ezel; Forbidden Love; and Karadayi
A tradition of storytelling Turkey’s comparatively young TV content business is booming. Andy Fry explains how the industry was built on the country’s rich culture and tradition for storytelling and how the rest of the world is now enjoying the stories of Turkey
F YOU are ever fortunate enough to visit Turkey, then you will quickly realise that TV dramas, known locally as ‘dizis’, are a national institution. Echoing Latin America’s love affair with telenovelas, dizis dominate primetime viewing and are the subject of intense discussion in the home, office and media. At first sight this may seem surprising, given that TV only arrived in Turkey in 1968, cour-
tesy of state broadcaster TRT. But it’s easier to understand when you discover that Turkey has a strong tradition of visual storytelling that stretches back to the era of the Ottoman Empire. “Turkish traditional entertainment has historically combined food, music and dance together,” says Professor Arzu Ozturkmen, a cultural historian at Istanbul’s prestigious Bogazici University. “Our traditional Orta
ESSENTIAL Turkey • OCTOBER 2015
Oyunu and Karagoz shadow theatre followed an interactive and improvised humour-based performance focusing on class conflicts, ethnic humour and gender quarrels… all based in neighbourhood settings. At the same time, the Ottoman period saw the emergence of epic and romantic storytelling, often based on traditional Middle Eastern stories that circulated through illustrated printed booklets during the 19th century.”
Alongside news and music, this mix of comedy, romance and epic storytelling became a key element in the early years of Turkish radio. So it was a natural evolution for it to transfer to TV. Indeed, the scarcity of TV sets in the 1970s meant that the tradition of public performance was also, to some extent, perpetuated as families and friends came together to watch their favourite shows. Even today the way Turks watch TV carries some echoes of the historic tradition, Ozturkmen says. Having said this, the dynamic world of dizis that Turkish viewers enjoy today didn’t come about overnight. In its early years, TRT’s schedule was heavily reliant on a mix of US imports — including Star Trek, Mission Impossible, Little House On The Prairie, Bonanza and The Fugitive — and acquisitions from the UK and France. Its early attempts at original dramas were adaptations of Turkish novels from feted movie directors including Halit Refig, Omer Lutfi Akad and Metin Erksan. While the literary content was strong, the audience didn’t especially warm to these shows — watching them mainly out of a sense of duty. It wasn’t until the production of sitcom Kaynanalar (The In-Laws) and drama Ask-i Memnu (Forbidden Love) that the TRT found a formula to captivate audiences. TRT really got into its stride in the 1980s, commissioning acclaimed poet and novelist Atilla Ilhan to produce original scripts. Ilhan responded with two ground-breaking dizis, Kartallar Yuksek Ucar (Eagles Fly High, 1983, 14 episodes) and Yarın Artık Bugundur (Tomorrow Now Means Today, 1986, 12 episodes). These shows tackled themes that would become the foundation of the dizi genre. Kartallar Yuksek Ucar, set in Izmir on the Aegean coast, focused on competing families, generational clashes and romance, all against the backdrop of social and political change in the young Turkish Republic. Yarın Artık Bugundur meanwhile portrayed the growing awareness of a bourgeois girl as she was exposed to the problems of Eastern Turkey and her estrangement from her former circles. While traditional Turkish storytelling and the influence of US imports both played their part in the emergence of the dizi, there was one other factor that also came into play. In the mid-1980s, TRT aired its first Latin telenovela Kole Isaura (Escrava Isaura). Suddenly, the audience was exposed to families and communities that looked and
“Turkish traditional entertainment has historically combined food, music and dance” sounded like their own. Not only did this provide a prodigious source of content, it also gave Turkish producers another creative influence for their own work. Kanal D head of sales and acquisitions Ozlem Ozsumbul recalls with affection how “when I was a child we watched all the Brazilian, Argentine and Mexican telenovelas. They were on air from 08.00 to primetime and we knew everything about them. They really appealed to Turks because they were so similar to the way we lived… big families living in one building, the competition between friends and neighbours and a similar outdoor culture. I think this connection is one reason that, today, Latin America is proving a good market for us to sell our dizis to.”
Turkey’s total filmed entertainment revenue will be worth $543m in 2019, up from $396m in 2014, a CAGR of 6.5% (PwC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2015-2019)
TRT dominated the TV market until 1989, at which point it had to face its first private rival Star. Beamed into Turkey without a licence from abroad, Star’s arrival was part of a wave of media liberalisation occurring across Europe. Soon after it was joined by other players, most notably ATV, Kanal D and Show TV. These five channels continue to be major players in the Turkish TV market — all of them airing dizis in primetime in order to capture all-important
ESSENTIAL TURKEY • OCTOBER 2015
advertising revenue. Working hand in hand with a burgeoning independent production sector, they have taken the genre to a new level. Starting in the 1990s but accelerating in the 2000s, they upped the quality of their romance, comedy and family dramas. More recently, Turkey’s major producers (backed by hugely competitive broadcasters) have become more ambitious, creating political thrillers, murder mysteries and spectacular period dramas. This increased ambition has not just paid off domestically in terms of ratings, it has also led to a flurry of international distribution deals. Today, titles including Noor, 1001 Nights, Magnificent Century, Ezel, Fatmagul, Forbidden Love (a modern adaptation of the original TRT success), Resurrection, Elif, Cherry Season, Karadiyi and many more are loved by audiences around the world. The Turkish TV market hasn’t stood still. While free TV is still the dominant part of the market, pay TV has become an important part of the landscape. In 1999 the country’s leading platform DigiTurk launched. !t was followed by D-Smart, part of Dogan Media Group, which also owns the Kanal D channel. Turk Telekom has also become a key TV player via its TTNet and Tivibu brands. Having recently acquired the rights to UEFA Champions League and Europa League it is expected to accelerate its expansion. At the same time, competition has also increased in the free-to-air market. This has happened in two ways. Firstly, through TRT’s decision to launch a series of thematic channels to support its flagship service TRT1. Today, TRT’s portfolio includes kids, documentary, sport, education and
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OVERVIEW a new international channel called TRT World, which will compete in the global market with the likes of Al Jazeera English. Secondly, the free-to-air market has seen the emergence of powerful new players such as Kanal 7, TV8 and Fox Turkey. While Channel 7 has gone after family audiences with a mix of drama, films and entertainment, TV8 has shaken up the market by successfully airing local versions of entertainment formats such as Survivor. Fox Turkey, a part of the Fox International Channels business, has had a remarkably good year, scoring hits with drama series such as Cherry Season and Karagul. The fact that FIC is now a major player in the market — both in freeTV and thematic TV — is an indication of how interested foreign players have become
SUBSCRIPTION TV 14
Subscription TV penetration will grow from 33.7% in 2014 to 39.5% in 2019, with TV subscription revenues of $1.06bn in 2019, up on $763 million in 2014. The strongest growth at 18.4% CAGR will be for IPTV households (PwC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2015-2019)
in Turkey. Aside from Fox, for example, Disney has had success in reversioning dramas such as Desperate Housewives and Revenge for the local market — effectively finding a way to ingrain itself in the dizi market. Global production giant Endemol Shine is also in the market and has just agreed to make a
local version of Big Brother for Star TV. It also makes dizis, for example Star’s Broken Pieces. There was more big news over the Turkish summer with the announcement that Discovery Communications has entered into a strategic partnership with Turkey’s Dogus Media Group, the company behind Star TV and NTV among others. The deal, which will see Dogus take over Discovery’s ad sales representation and Discovery acquire Dogus free-to-air channel CNBC-e, means the US media giant now has a portfolio of 13 channels in Turkey. James Gibbons, executive vice-president for Discovery’s emerging business regions, says: “Turkey is a dynamic TV market where free-to-air plays a crucial role. With the addition of a free-to-air channel in our portfolio of documentary, factual entertainment and sports channels, we will have a stronger offering for our viewers and commercial partners, and we look forward to working alongside Dogus to increase the scale of our business in Turkey.” The big story in the context of MIPTV and MIPCOM has been the massive growth in Turkish drama exports (covered elsewhere in this supplement). But there are also signs that the country is starting to have some success in selling other genres. Companies like Global Agency and Arti Film Production have started to flex their muscles in the format business. Animation is now a growing business in Turkey. After years of US domination Turkish animation’s first local hero Pepee has started a new era. Production company Dusyeri is continuously producing new kids’ content. Local animation is now dominating the kids’ market. With Pepee, RGG Ayas, Leliko, Pisi and now Aydamaya, Dusyeri is starting to market its animation globally.
“Today, Latin America is proving a good market for us to sell our dizis to”
ESSENTIAL TURKEY • OCTOBER 2015
The young say yes to pay-TV PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPERS (PwC) says Turkey’s pay-TV market is limited by both piracy and the proliferation of free-to-air channels. However, it goes on to argue that “the potential is high with a young population and average viewing of over five hours per day”. According to PwC’s forecasts, “subscription-TV penetration will grow from 33.7% in 2014 to 39.5% in 2019, supporting revenues of $1.06bn (up from $763m in 2014).” While the strongest growth will be for IPTV households, PwC says satellite TV households will retain their lead reaching 5.1 million by 2019, compared with 3.9 million in 2014. “The main focus for Turksat’s cable service will be digital upgrades, but we forecast an additional near 250,000 subscribers by 2019.” Looking at the market by key players, PwC says subscriber numbers are “disputed” but regulator ICTA reported that “Digiturk had 2.5 million subscribers by the end of 2013, while Dogan’s D-Smart service had just over one million paying subscribers. Government service Turksat operates the only cable network and had 1.2 million subscribers at the end of 2013. Turk Telecom dominates the broadband sector and had 286,000 IPTV subscriptions by the end of 2013, although it is growing at a faster rate than its rivals.” Sporting rights are vital in the Turkish pay-TV market and have driven Digiturk’s success, says PwC. However Turk Telecom’s acquisition of UEFA Champions League and Europa League will boost its fortunes. With growth expected in the market, it is no surprise to see players like FIC and Discovery targeting the market. Other leading players in the market include A+E and Modern Times Group (MTG), which launched a suite of factual channels in the market during 2014. Explaining why MTG targeted Turkey, Irina Gofman, executive vice-president and CEO of Russia & CIS and pay-TV emerging markets, says: “Turkey sits at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, is the world’s 17th largest economy and has a population of more than 80 million people. TV and video consumption are also growing rapidly in the country.”
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Who’s who in Turkish media We speak to some of the key figures at the head of Turkey’s burgeoning audiovisual industry “Everyone’s schedules are full of comedies this year” ADAM THEILER Executive vice-president, Southern Europe and Africa, at Fox International Channels
FOX INTERNATIONAL Channels (FIC) made a major intervention in the Turkish market in 2007 when it acquired free-to-air channel TGRT and renamed it Fox TV. Today, Fox TV is one of Turkey’s big-five networks and is part of a Turkish operation that also includes a number of pay-TV thematic channels. Adam Theiler, who is based in Istanbul, says Fox TV has been consistently in the top-three channels for the last year, thanks to the quality of its primetime drama. “High production-value dramas featuring big-name stars are still the breadwinners in the Turkish television market,” he adds. Fox managed to get a jump on its rivals last summer when it began airing romantic comedies. “Summer is traditionally very quiet, so last year we decided to experiment with some light-hearted romantic comedies. Turkey had been having a hard time and the audience reacted very positively. As a result, everyone’s schedules are full of comedies this year.” One of the channel’s biggest hits is Cherry Season (Kiraz Mevsimi), a romantic comedy that has also sold well internationally. Darker, more complex titles include That Is My Life (O Hayat Benim) and Karagul (The Black Rose). While most ad revenue in Turkey is focused on primetime drama, Theiler says Fox is winning the all-day ratings “because we have a strong 24-hour schedule that includes daily soaps and entertainment, as well as our dramas. Our news coverage at 19.00 is also a big attraction. People treasure our news because it’s fair and balanced, which is a big deal for the population of Turkey.” The local market has reacted positively to the presence of a foreign brand: “Turkey has a very welcoming attitude to foreign ideas. They’ve been very receptive.” FIC’s integrated model means that it also gets to distribute its Turkish shows via FIC Content Sales. In Love Again and That Is My Life are both in the FIC Content Sales catalogue, as are the Latin American rights to Cherry Season.
“Our region is fast developing into a hot new market” GOKHAN TATARER Managing director of Endemol Shine Turkey GOKHAN Tatarer worked at a number of Turkish channels before joining Endemol in 2001. “Our region is fast developing into a hot new market and Endemol Shine Turkey is opening the door to the global marketplace. It’s a dream come true to be working for one of the biggest content creators in the world,” Tatarer says. “Some of our biggest titles include Broken Pieces, our first scripted launch in 2014 for Star TV; the Turkish debut of Big Brother for Star TV; The People’s Choice for ATV; and Still Standing for Star TV [both Armoza formats]. Local versions of other Endemol Shine formats include Deal Or No Deal, Wipeout and Your Face Sounds Familiar.” While Endemol Shine has had a lot of success with non-scripted formats, Tatarer confirms the importance of scripted shows in Turkey. “Drama has become increasingly important to our business. Broken Pieces topped the ratings charts for all key demographics and has been sold to around 20 countries by Global Agency. We also produced Sparrow Palace for Star TV and Overturn for ATV in 2015 and are now working on three new drama projects for 2015-16.” A little more unusual has been the company’s move into kids: “It’s rare to see locally created branded-entertainment shows for children, but we created a local format — Max Adventures Heroes Team — that fits perfectly in that space and can travel internationally. Now in its second season, the first aired in May 2014 on Disney Channel Turkey, reaching up to 2.5 million young viewers.” The keys to success are local market knowledge and nerves of steel: “It’s essential to understand the market’s needs with an in-depth knowledge of available content and how it can be localised. Financial stability is also important, which gives the ability produce highquality projects.”
ESSENTIAL Turkey • OCTOBER 2015
THE PLAYERS “Primetime advertising is so important” PELIN DISTAS AND LALE EREN General Manager and editor-in-chief of Kanal D DOGAN-owned Kanal D is one of Turkey’s leading broadcasters with its own production and distribution operations. Kanal D is part of the same group as D-Smart. Like its rivals, Kanal D airs dizis in primetime, according to editorin-chief Lale Eren. “Primetime used to be more diverse six or seven years ago, but the economics of the business mean that all of the channels now focus on drama to attract advertising revenue,” Eren says. Top titles in this year’s primetime schedule include War Of The Roses. Daytime programming is mainly aimed at women and includes sports magazine programming, soaps, talk shows, magazine shows, cooking shows, lifestyle shows and dating shows, mostly shot within the Kanal D building. “We used to have kids’ content, but all the big channels got out of kids TV because of the competition from TRT and the specialist channels available on the digital platforms.” While Kanal D continues to perform well, there are challenges, says CEO Pelin Distas (left). For example there have been changes in the audience-rating system that have caused volatility in the way in which channels and shows are ranked. “This is important for the way we deal with advertisers,” Distas says. “We have been working with a new system for the last two years that completely changed the approach to measurement, affecting all the broadcasters. We are now in the process of changing to another new system next year.” High cancellation rates, the result of tough competition, mean channels like Kanal D also need to have a stock of alternative content in case a show is suddenly pulled from the schedule. Typically, the channel will have access to US blockbuster movies for such scenarios. The high cost of dizis, meanwhile, means that Kanal D is looking possibly at introducing a different genre on one day of the week. Distas says Kanal D is having some success attracting young audiences to drama via its online platform Kanald.com.tr: “We achieved audiences in their millions for an episode of drama.” But so far there is no business model to support this. “Primetime advertising is so important. Even international sales revenues are small compared to this.”
“Turkish drama has helped re-energise Arab drama” FADI ISMAIL Group director of drama production and distribution at Middle East Broadcasting (MBC) Corp FADI Ismail is not Turkish, but he deserves a lot of credit for the introduction of Turkish drama to the world. “I was at a film festival in Antalya in around 2007,” he recalls. “I felt very alien and out of place. I didn’t speak Turkish but, while I was there, I watched some Turkish TV drama and it struck me that I was looking at people like me — the same colour, the same clothes, the same tastes. The language was alien, but everything else was familiar.” At that time, Arabic drama was suffering, so Ismail talked to his boss about whether they should experiment by acquiring Turkish drama: “It was only when MBC got interested that Turkish drama started growing internationally.” But it wasn’t a simple process. “Our first Turkish drama broadcast didn’t work because it required too much knowledge of Turkish politics and society. But then we aired the romance Noor, dubbing it into Syrian Arabic, and it was a big success. After that, we acquired large volumes of romance and drama shows from Kanal D and ATV.” The dynamics of the market have changed since then — a warning to Turkish content creators that they need to stay on top of their game. “Turkish drama has helped re-energise Arab drama, so now it has more competition in the Middle East,” Ismail says. “Because the price is also quite high now, I don’t think you’ll find the same volume of deals done in MENA.” This is not to say that Turkish drama exports are in trouble: “MENA may not be buying as much, but we are seeing more sales to places like Latin America, Europe and Russia. In fact, we launched a Turkey-based company called O3 Turkey Media, which makes Turkish drama for the domestic broadcasters. By doing this, we control a business that can also give us titles for MENA and for other international markets.” O3 Turkey Media’s key title to date is Kaderimin Yazildigi Gun, starring Ozcan Deniz, which aired on Star TV and has secured a second season. It was also behind the recent adaptation of Pretty Little Liars (Tatlı Kucuk Yalancılar) for Star TV.
ESSENTIAL TURKEY • OCTOBER 2015
THE PLAYERS “Family drama is an important theme for us” ZIYAD VAROL Head of international sales at ATV Television
ATV, FOUNDED in September 1993, is one of Turkey’s leading commercial TV stations. Since 2013, it has belonged to conglomorate Kaylon Group, which acquired it from Calik Group. In terms of profile, ATV prides itself on being a family channel. “In a recent survey, the key word that came out for ATV was ‘family’,” says Ziyad Varol, who heads ATV’s international sales division. “Family drama is an important theme for us in our primetime schedule. One of the first questions we always ask with our dramas is whether they can be watched by family audiences.” ATV produces around 5,000 hours of original programming a year across all genres. Within this total are recent dramas Orphan Flowers, Bandits, Stolen Life and the worldwide bestseller Sila. In addition, the company also has a strong back catalogue. “ATV has always been one of the leading channels, but it was especially successful from the late-1990s until about 2005. It was the number-one channel for seven years,” Varol says. “This was an important period, because it saw ATV build up a strong library of dramas that we still sell today. We were able to licence a lot of our library to the Middle East.” Echoing his peers in the Turkish distribution business, Varol says that ATV dramas have found homes in some 60-80 countries. Explaining their appeal, he says: “As we have expanded into regions like Latin America, buyers have told us they really like the emotion in Turkish drama. Turkish drama is slow, but the long pauses give it this extra emotion. Some buyers also like the mix of eastern and western cultures, while others like the strong emphasis on family values.” On top of this is the quality of Turkey’s scripted output. “Partly this is because of the level of competition here,” Varol says. “But it’s also to do with the fact that shooting in Istanbul is not that easy. To do it successfully requires a lot of production ability.”
“Turkish drama has driven our international growth” IZZET PINTO CEO and Founder of Global Agency IZZET Pinto set up distribution company Global Agency nine years ago with a single non-scripted format called Perfect Bride. Today, Global Agency is the biggest independent distributor in Turkey with around 120 titles in its catalogue. “Our slate is about 50:50 dramas and formats,” Pinto says. “But so far, it’s the strength of Turkish drama that has driven our international growth. Our dramas, which include Magnificent Century, 1001 Nights and Game Of Silence, play in primetime in 70 countries around the world and account for 75% of our revenues.” Explaining why Turkish drama has done so well, Pinto says: “The most important thing is that the scripts are good. Turkish dramas tell great stories and are produced to high quality. They are also familyoriented so people can watch with their kids.” While drama will continue to be a bedrock of the company, Pinto is also making a concerted effort to transform Global Agency into an international player on the unscripted formats stage: “We don’t just represent formats from Turkey, we also look after titles from around 10 other countries, including Israel, Germany and Romania. We want to be the first Turkish global player.” Global Agency has had success with several formats, including Shopping Monsters, Keep Your Light Shining, It’s Showtime and Perfect Bride. “I think formats will rise to be around 30% of our revenues by the end of the year and we aim to keep expanding in that way,” Pinto adds. Pinto, a well-known face at MIPTV and MIPCOM, is planning to take advantage of the fact that Turkey is Country Of Honour at this market: “We are launching some big titles and have made a serious investment. We will create a buzz!”
ESSENTIAL TURKEY • OCTOBER 2015
THE PLAYERS “Turkey is so competitive you need to take risks” KEREM CATAY CEO of Ay Yapim AY YAPIM is one of Turkey’s most successful independent production companies. Launched in the early part of the last decade by Kerem Catay, it first made its name with the sitcom Kadin Isterse and the drama The Fall Of Leaves (Yaprak Dokumu). Based on a famous Turkish novel, The Fall Of Leaves aired for five seasons on Kanal D and sold to 45 countries. Ay Yapim domestic and international hits include Forbidden Love, Ezel, Fatmagul, The End and Karadayi. Making shows targeting the international market is comparatively new for Turkey. “None of us ever had the idea that we were producing shows that would be successful internationally. Turkey is so competitive that you have to start by making something that is right for Turkey.” Catay has developed a reputation for backing projects with powerful, ambitious and unsettling themes. Fatmagul, for example, deals with the aftermath of a gang rape and the impact it has on the female central character. Kurt Seyit Ve Sura is an epic historical drama reported to have cost $2m per episode. Partly shot in Russia, it was later sold to Hispanic US network MundoFox. “Turkey is so competitive you need to take risks,” Catay adds. “It is difficult, though, because the market is quick to criticise failures. In the US, if you have four out of 10 successful projects, you’re probably okay. But in Turkey, if you have one bad production, you die…” One way that Catay has managed to maintain his success rate is by building a strong family ethic among the talent with whom he works: “Our writers aren’t quite in-house, but many have been working with us for over 10 years. That creates a strong bond.” Ay Yapim has made a wide variety of stories — but does Catay think there anything that wouldn’t work for Turkish audiences? “The major difference in terms of subject matter is that there are no paranormal stories yet. No zombies, no vampires. If that genre comes to Turkey, then I think it will have to be based on Turkish folklore stories.”
“We are probably a bit more traditional and careful” MELTEM TUMTURK AKYOL International programme sales executive at Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) FOUNDED in 1964, TRT first started broadcasting TV shows in 1968. A founding member of the European Broadcasting Union, it was for many years the only source of TV in Turkey. Today, TRT faces stiff competition from private channels and has reinvented itself to meet the challenge. “TRT now has 15 channels,” Meltem Tumturk Akyol says. “These include general-entertainment channel TRT1, thematic channels in areas such as kids and documentary, and regional-language channels. They are all free except TRT HD, which airs sport and documentary.” Funded by a mix of advertising and an electricity tax, TRT mainly uses domestically commissioned content, topped up by acquisitions from companies such as BBC Worldwide. TRT1’s programming selection is similar to that of the private channels, “though we are probably a bit more traditional and careful because we are a public broadcaster”, Tumturk Akyol says. “Appealing to a broad range of family members is important to us.” TRT’s lengthy heritage means that it has actually been selling shows to markets including Russia for around 20 years. “But like the other channels, our sales have grown since around 2007, first in the Middle East and then in the Balkans and Latin America,” Tumturk Akyol says. Resurrection, now in series two, continues to be a top TRT title. “Sometimes as a public broadcaster we work with partners to get our shows to different markets,” Tumturk Akyol says. “We also have some regional partners, such as Somos Distribution and Latin Media Corporation for Latin America.” And TRT is not just about drama: “Our kids channel is very popular in Turkey and we bring content to markets like MIPCOM. It’s very safe family content with no conflict, slang language or bad characters. We also produce historical, cultural and educational documentaries [some for educational channel TRT Okul].” The company recently launched TRT World, an English-language news channel. The aim is to tell news stories from a human-interest angle. Tumturk Akyol believes Turkey will continue its good run in the TV business as long as channels “continue to work together to promote Turkey”. And she believes the Country Of Honour event will help this.
ESSENTIAL TURKEY • OCTOBER 2015
“Answer If You Can is fun and exciting”
“We were lucky enough to succeed”
President/CEO, ITV-Inter Medya
CEO, Tims Productions
ITV-INTER Medya started out as a film distribution company on the domestic market some 24 years ago. After 10 years it began to expand its reach, looking first to Central and Eastern European markets, Russia and the CIS countries, Central Asia and Baltic States and later into the Middle East and North Africa. The type of content it sold changed too, films slowly giving way to Made-in-Turkey’ telenovelas and other TV content. Today the company is looking to Asia, Western Europe, as well as the Americas – and particularly South America, the birthplace of the telenovela. The international appeal of Turkish drama is notable in that so much of the country’s exports — for example Resurrection, Filinta and Magnificent Century — tell stories that are specific to Turkey. “Although these shows reflect Turkish history they are being shot as drama series,” says ITV-Inter Medya president/CEO Can Okan. “They offer high production values, strong script writing and great acting – and there are many other factors involved. For example, the pre-production of Resurrection lasted more than 11 months and a 60-strong design team worked on the costumes and the sets. For the stunt choreography, the world-famous Team Nomad — which has worked on world renowned movies like Expendables 2, 47 Ronin and Conan The Barbarian was brought in.” Okan also points to Turkish talent as another strong draw. Tuba Buyukustun, star of the series 20 Minutes (20 Dakika) was nominated as Best Actress in the 2014 International Emmy Awards and Engin Akyurek won Best Actor at the recent Seoul Drama Awards. Endless Love (Kara Sevda), a recent drama series on Star TV, produced by Ay Yapım, is one of the company’s high-profile projects of the moment, along with Destiny (Alin Yazim), produced by Focus Film and aired on Kanal D. New to the catalogue are three game show formats Answer If You Can, Celebrities In The Kitchen and The League. “Quiz shows are usually monotone and boring but Answer If You Can is fun and exciting,” Okan says. Celebrities In The Kitchen is a cooking contest and The League is a sports quiz show adaptable to many team sports.
TIMS Productions is one of Turkey’s biggest production companies, with many popular TV series and feature films in its portfolio — notably the epic Ottoman Empire drama Magnificent Century. The company’s CEO was inspired to create the series after seeing the global success of historical dramas from other parts of the world, for example the British drama set in the 15th century, The Tudors, created by Michael Hirst. “We planned it to be an international project from the very beginning,” Timur Savci says. “I think that is very important. I can easily say that this was a first of its kind made in Turkey; we designed it from the outset to be successful across the whole world. We were lucky enough to succeed.” And the global quest continues, with Tims’ series being seen across most of South America, much of Africa and across Europe, although Savci says that Northern and Western Europe remain a challenge. “There is demand from Western Europe but they do not offer the fees we are looking for,” he adds. “There is a bit of resistance there; they like to keep their offers low. But I think we will surpass that too.” The company is now gaining ground across Asia and awaits clearance from the censorship board in China. “If we succeed there I think that will also be a first for a Turkish series.” The company recently opened an office in Los Angeles and the English-language remake of Magnificent Century is about to start production. “Game of Silence, whose license belongs to us, is in the process of being prepared as an American adaptation and will be on air on NBC in January — which is another first for the Turkish television industry,” Savci says. At MIPCOM a key focus for the company is its new show Magnificent Century: Kosem which Savci claims could be the biggest project ever to have come out of Turkey. “We plan to be on air this month. That is our main focus right now. We are presenting a private screening to our valuable guests, clients and content buyers in Cannes, prior to its broadcast. That is how much we love and trust in our work.”
ESSENTIAL TURKEY • OCTOBER 2015
Love Is Calling, a hit show from Arti Film
The billion-dollar prize The Turkish drama wave continues to sweep the world, bringing revenues and kudos in equal measure. But there’s reality, entertainment and documentary too. Now the second largest exporter of TV series after the US, Turkey is aiming to export $1bn worth of content by 2023
HE SUCCESS of Turkish drama on the global stage over the last decade is one of the most remarkable stories in the international TV business. From virtual obscurity, Turkish-originated content is now watched in markets as diverse as Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe. Even in fortress markets like the US, the Turks have managed to gain a foothold with scriptedformat deals. Calinos Entertainment general manager Besir Tatli recalls the early days when “we used to sell Turkish drama to Azerbaijan for around $300 an hour. Now, top quality Turkish drama
is able to generate around $10,000 per hour in key markets.” Global Agency CEO Izzet Pinto confirms this trend: “10 years ago, Turkish drama exports were worth around $100,000 a year. Now, that figure is more like $200m a year. We’ve reached a point where almost every market in the world is willing to look at our completed or formatted drama.” While it is possible to identify a number of key breakthroughs that have contributed to the Turkish success story, most agree that a wave of high-profile scripted sales to the Arab-speaking world have played a key role. Following on from the sale of Kanal D’s Noor
ESSENTIAL Turkey • OCTOBER 2015
(Gumus in Turkish) to pan-regional broadcaster MBC around 10 years ago, titles including Forbidden Love (Ask-I Memnu), Fatmagul, 1001 Nights (Binbir Gece) and Magnificent Century (Muhtesem Yuzyıl) have all played to huge Arabic audiences. In parallel, Turkish drama also started gaining traction in Eastern Europe. “It was like a domino effect,” says Ahmet Ziyalar, managing director of distributor ITV Inter Medya. “If you sold a Turkish drama in Serbia one year, then the next it would sell in Macedonia and so on across the region.” Noor (also translated as Silver in some markets) is a case in point. Produced by ANS, it
EXPORTS sold to Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Albania, Slovakia and Montenegro over a four-year period from 2009 to 2013. Other titles to take Eastern Europe by storm have included hard-hitting drama Fatmagul, which has sold to a total of 14 Central and Eastern European territories; and Love And Punishment (Ask Ve Ceza), which has picked up sales in territories including Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia and Georgia. The domino effect did not stop with Eastern Europe. Today, a good Turkish drama will usually travel to around 50-plus countries. In exceptional cases such as Magnificent Century, that figure is more like 80 territories.
Oddly, one of the key players in the export of Turkish drama is a Swedish company called Eccho Rights. “Eccho used to focus mainly on international entertainment formats,” says Handan Ozkubat, head of the company’s Istanbul sales office. “But five or six years ago, it started distributing a show called Ezel on behalf of Turkish producer Ay Yapim. Ezel sold to around 70 countries and, as a result, Eccho started shifting its catalogue more towards Turkish drama.” That decision has paid off, with Eccho managing to secure deals in various parts of the world. “Ezel has now sold to every country in Latin America,” Ozkubat says. “But in addition, we recently licensed Kanal 7’s Elif to Indonesia, where it is now one of the toprated shows. We also licensed the format for The End to the US, where it is being remade for Fox. Another big breakthrough was the sale of ready-made series Cherry Season [Kiraz Mevsimi] to Canale 5 in Italy. We’re hoping this show will open the door to Western Europe for Turkish drama.” There is no single explanation for why Turkish drama has been so successful on the global stage. In the Middle East, the dramas are regarded as liberal and aspirational, portraying a world in which Muslim and Western inﬂuences have been successfully integrated. At the same time, they tackle themes that are not often addressed in the Middle East, such
as gender equality, affairs and illegitimacy. But in other parts of the world — for example Latin America and Asia — it is the importance of traditional structures like family that often resonates. Global Agency’s Pinto says: “A lot of buyers like the fact that Turkey produces shows that families can watch with their kids.” Kanal D’s head of sales and acquisitions, Ozlem Ozsumbul, agrees with much of the above, but adds other insights: “A lot of audiences like the way feelings are expressed in Turkish drama, and they likely seeing Turkey’s beautiful backdrops. Our shows are also very popular with female audiences, who tend to have control of the TV remote. We know that women in the Middle East are really interested in the similarities and differences between the Turkish and Arabic cultures.” One thing that producers and distributors agree on is that the quality of writing and acting bears comparison with most drama around the world. “One thing you have to realise is that Turkish dramas have already been filtered by the time they get to the international market,” says Kerem Catay, CEO of leading indie producer Ay Yapim. “Each year in Turkey, around 70 or 80 new dramas launch but not many of them survive more than a few episodes. So to come through that competition already says something about the quality of your show. I think it’s a large part of why Turkish drama does well internationally.” Also worth noting is Turkey’s prodigious range of output. While a lot of attention has been paid to lavish period drama Magnificent Century and romances such as Forbidden Love, the Turks are also very adept at creating contemporary thrillers. A good example is Tims Productions’ Game Of Silence (Suskunlar), which has been picked up by NBC in the US. Production is currently under way for the show which is planned to be on air in January. Originally aired on Show TV, the series tells the story of a rising attorney whose career is endangered when child-
“10 years ago, Turkish drama exports were worth around $100,000 a year. Now, that ﬁgure is more like $200m a year”
ESSENTIAL TURKEY • OCTOBER 2015
PEPEE LEADS THE WAY
ANIMATION is a nascent industry in Turkey, but there is one company hoping to follow where Turkish drama producers have led. Ayse Sule Bilgic set up animation production company Dusyeri (Dreaming Place) in 2007 and has gone on to have a big hit with pre-school series Pepee. Originally aired on TRT, the show now features on independent kids’ channel Planet Cocuk, of which Bilgic recently became general manager. Following on from its TV success, Pepee has spawned a range of ancillary activities, including live events, publications, and licensing and merchandising (plush toys, nightwear, groceries etc). Dusyeri has gone on to create other series, including Pisi, RGG Ayas,Leliko and Aydamaya and also has a high-profile presence on social-media platforms, for example, YouTube where it has 250,000-plus subscribers and over a billion views. Dusyeri’s growth is a good example of Turkish tenacity. When the company was formed, the Turkish animation industry was virtually nonexistent, Bilgic says. “We didn’t even know where our productions would be shown,” she says. “But the most important thing was that we wanted to prove it was possible for Turkey to have a sustainable animation industry that could compete with international companies in terms of quality.”
EXPORTS hood friends threaten to expose a secret from the past. There has also been a wave of youth-oriented dramas this year that have done well both at home and abroad. A case in point is Fox Turkey’s Cherry Season (circa 200 episodes). Produced by Surec Film, it has been sold by Eccho Rights to Astro in Malaysia, VTV in Vietnam and ARY in Pakistan. Not to be overlooked either is Turkey’s growing expertise in non-scripted formats. Elsewhere in this special, we discuss Global Agency’s ambition to increase its activities in this area. Another company thinking along similar lines is Arti Film, a regular visitor to Cannes. Arti’s acquisitions and development co-ordinator Irem Akdere says the company’s brands and formats cover all genres, from game shows and reality to talk shows and lifestyle series. In addition to possessing one of the largest libraries of Latin telenovelas in Turkey, Arti produced and delivered 10 shows to Turkish networks last season. Internationally, Arti is known for unscripted formats, Akdere adds: “Our creative team comes up with new ideas that are turned into pilots and introduced to the global market. For instance, one of Arti’s hit shows is Love Is Calling — a dating/marriage show that has aired on RTL Germany and been optioned in France. Another is Style Wars, a fashionthemed reality competition show that was recently optioned in Italy. Say Yes — our newest project — is a marriage-proposal competition show that is available for optioning and licensing at MIPCOM.” To date, Arti has worked with Global Agency and Small World. “But in the future, we plan to get into the market not only as a producer but also as a distributor,” Akdere says. “We are very much excited about the format industry and, hopefully, in three years, we will see more of our shows airing in different countries.” While Turkey’s documentary producers do not have the kind of profile
enjoyed by their peers in the drama business, they have been working hard to raise the profile of their business on the international scene, says Yasin Ali Turkeri, who runs the company ESR Film Yapim and is a board member of BSB, the Association of Documentary Filmmaker in Turkey. “BSB supports the Turkish production community and tries to raise its profile internationally at various festival and events,” he says. “For example, we work with the European Documentary Network [EDN] on events to help improve the industry’s pitching and marketing, and also to introduce filmmakers to networks and sales agents interested in documentary. We also examine the business models in markets like Germany to see what we can learn from them.” Within Turkey, the main funding opportunities for factual filmmakers are public broadcaster TRT, the culture and tourism ministry, and commercial sponsors, which are sometimes willing to support relevant material.
As yet, there is little support from the international factual channels, which rely mostly on content brought in from other markets. The fact that this pool is quite small makes the international business more important, Turkeri says, “although so far we haven’t managed to develop a sustainable model. A few producers have worked for the likes of Al Jazeera and ARTE, but it’s not a regular situation.” Turkeri’s own recent productions have seen him mainly work in Turkey, Macedonia and Russia: “ESR generally focuses on humaninterest stories, sometimes with a historical or political element. I shot a film about a famous Macedonian songwriter and another about an historic fabric manufacturer that opened up some really interesting humaninterest stories.” Lack of funding and the difficulty of controlling rights have probably been the biggest barrier to Turkish documentary-makers becoming noticed internationally. But there is no question that there are great stories to be told. “We know foreign channels are interested in Turkey,” Turkeri says. “The kind of things they ask for are films about the Kurds, the situation with gay rights and environmental/ecological issues.” As outlined above, the main factual commissioning broadcaster in Turkey is TRT, which typically holds on to the rights of the shows it greenlights. For this reason, TRT Sales has a rich catalogue of films that provide insights into Turkish culture, history and natural history. Titles in the portfolio include Fasting Season In Anatolia, Cities Of Istanbul, Heirs Of Dominion and The Hawk. Human-interest titles include Immigration Stories, which looks at the waves of migration that occurred as the Ottoman Empire started to collapse, and The Language Of The Tattoo.
Fox Turkey’s Cherry Season
“Our shows are very popular with female audiences, who tend to have control of the TV remote” ESSENTIAL TURKEY • OCTOBER 2015
PROGRAMME IMPORTS Dad Don’t Panic! licensed to ATV by Banijay
Welcome to Turkey With a population of 80 million and one of the world’s top-20 economies, it’s no surprise that foreign content companies want to break into Turkey. And an increasing amount of international content is being welcomed into the country
OR FOREIGN content companies eyeing the Turkish market, the main barrier to entry is that primetime in Turkey is dominated by local drama — known as “dizis” — on which broadcasters spend huge budgets. And according to all3media International senior format sales executive Facundo Bailez, “investment in this kind of programming doesn’t show any sign of decreasing, especially now that Turkish dramas are selling so well internationally”. However, a number of companies have had success with programming that can play a supporting role to these big domestic-drama tent-poles. For example, “there is a need for
ﬂexible entertainment shows that can play weekly or daily in access primetime and daytime”, Bailez says. “So in recent years, we have licensed formats such as Meet The Parents, Cash At Your Door and Cash Cab to Kanal D, and Money From Strangers and Gogglebox to Star TV. Right now, we have Lingo on air on NTV, where it’s doing extremely well as one of the first entertainment shows that the channel has aired.” Banijay International managing director Emmanuelle Namiech says her company has also had success with a number of entertainment formats in recent years. “Genres that work in Turkey are family competition
ESSENTIAL Turkey • OCTOBER 2015
shows, music-related talent shows and some big adventure shows,” she says. Among the titles that Banijay International has licensed to Turkey are Spinsanity, Trust, My Parents Are Gonna Love You, Dad Don’t Panic! (all to ATV), Stars In Danger: The High Dive (Show TV), Beat The Family (Fox) and Popstars (Star TV). Although it is early days, there is also evidence that Turkish broadcasters are starting to explore alternatives to dizis, adds all3media’s Bailez. With the cost of these lavish local dramas rising all the time — but the advertising market remaining ﬂat — channels “are looking at whether alternative forms of
PROGRAMME IMPORTS content can help them bring costs down” he says. “We are now in discussions for some of our constructed reality formats, especially Day And Night, and The Only Way Is Essex is under development with a local production company.”
Desperate Housewives, for example, Disney followed up with a sale to MBC in the Middle East. Intikam, the Turkish version of Revenge, sold to 31 territories, with particularly impressive sales in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe.
All3media is not the first company to try to come up with an alternative to the dizi. Disney, for example, teamed up with Turkish producer Medyapim in 2011/2012 to make local versions of Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice for free TV. More recently, Warner Bros.’ hit Pretty Little Liars was adapted for broadcast on Turkey’s Star TV. Kanal D has been especially active in the reversioning area, says head of sales and acquisitions Ozlem Ozsumbul. “We have our own in-house production company, which has adapted Revenge [Disney], Monk [NBCUniversal] and Jane The Virgin [Electus/ RCTV]. We also acquired the format to Matter Of Respect from Mediaset in Italy and adapted it for our channel.” The obvious advantage of this model is that the local broadcaster can circumvent the development/writing process. But there is a second benefit, Ozsumbul says — which is that the adapted series can be sold into markets where the original version has little appeal. In the case of the Turkish version of
While scripted formats are one way of trying to control the escalating cost of dizis, there are also interesting developments in non-scripted formats. For example, one of the smaller free-to-air channels in the market, TV8, does not have enough money to compete aggressively in the dizi space. So channel-owner Acun Ilicali decided to fill his schedule with local versions of shows such as The Voice, Got Talent, Survivor and Utopia. Natasha Hussain, vice-president and general manager of the Middle East and Mediterranean region at BBC Worldwide, says her company has been one of the beneficiaries of this decision: “Forty episodes of The Weakest Link were sold to TV8 last year along with Great Bake Off. Great Bake Off is a real success in Turkey, with over 100 episodes produced. There are high hopes for a second [series].” Not only is TV8 a good customer in its own right, but the ratings success of Survivor has encouraged Turkey’s big five channels — ATV, Kanal D, Star TV, Show TV and Fox — to reassess the potential of non-scripted.
Studio 100 licenses hit shows including Maya The Bee to children’s channel TRT Cocuk
“There is a need for flexible entertainment shows that can play weekly or daily in access primetime and daytime” ESSENTIAL TURKEY • OCTOBER 2015
A BUYER’S VIEWPOINT “KANAL 7 was launched around 20 years ago. Today, it is a well-known entertainment channel with a wide range of programming. An important element to Kanal 7 is that we treasure family and the moral values of Turkish society. We produce our own TV shows and movies and also air classic Turkish films and foreign films in primetime. In daytime we broadcast women’s programming produced in-house, and wildlife documentaries at the weekends. Kanal 7 launched its new daily drama series Elif in September 2014. Produced by Green Yapim and distributed by Eccho Rights, it’s the story of a six-year-old girl sent by her mother to the wealthy Emiroglu household to be a servant on the farm — as her mother used to be. Although unaware, Elif is the child of Kenan Emiroglu, the favourite son of the family. He doesn’t know either, although he was in love with her mother , who he believes abandoned him, though actually she was driven from the farm. Can Elif’s kindness right the wrongs done to her and her family? It is by far the most successful series ever on Kanal 7 and triples the average share of the channel. Our daily series airs. at 20.00 every night, following a repeat of the previous episode at 19.00. We broadcast a foreign film or a Turkish classic movie at 21.00. “Kanal 7’s priorities are to continue with Elif and invest in foreign and Turkishproduced films. At MIPCOM, we are looking for drama series for adaptation. We are interested in the format rights to scripted dramas that are family- and female-oriented. We have reviewed many titles from Korea and India, because their cultural and moral values are close to ours. In addition to scripted formats, we also look for unscripted entertainment formats, for example TV game shows based on physical challenges. And we will also review unscripted formats to enrich our daily women’s programming. “Ulke TV is our thematic news channel. For this we acquire documentaries. So far we have worked with major producers, including the BBC, National Geographic and Sky Vision.”
PROGRAMME IMPORTS Not to be overlooked either is the expansion of public broadcaster TRT, which has a total of 15 channels to feed, covering a range of genres. Once again, BBC Worldwide is on hand, Hussain says, selling “over 60 hours of blue-chip documentaries, including Wild Arabia, Africa and Human Planet”. Also successful has been children’s producer Studio 100, which licences hit shows including Maya The Bee to children’s channel Another factor that is opening up opportuniTRT Cocuk. “In addition, we have a partnerties for foreign content-owners is the growship with TRT for the puppetry series Big ing number of channels in the Turkish marAnd Small,” says Studio 100 Media CEO Patket. Echoing the situation with TV8, there rick Elmendorff. “They also participated in are several other small-to-medium free-to-air the co-financing of this wonderful pre-school channels that need low-cost alternatives to property. We have established a very sucdizis. There is also an emerging pay-TV marcessful relationship with TRT and we look ket, led by the Digiturk and D-Smart platforward to continuing this collaboration in forms. the future with other projects.” Furthermore, BBC Worldwide’s Hussain says her company Elmendorff adds, Studio 100 is working tohas just done its biggest-ever deal with NTV wards long-term partnerships with other for a raft of top titles, including Intruders, platforms and TV stations including MCD, Doctor Who and Musketeers, while Turkish Turkuvaz Media Group and TTNET. pay-TV channel Sinema has picked up series Any story about Turkish programme imports three of Ripper Street, series two of Orphan would be incomplete without reference to Black and series three of Moone Boy. She the powerful bond that continues to exist adds that the company’s new linear channel, between Turkey and the world’s BBC Earth, has also recently leading telenovela distributors. launched on TTNet, the interXavier Aristimuno, senior vicenet service provider of Turk Telpresident of international busiekom Group. ness development and digital Henrik Pabst, managing direcmedia at Telemundo Internactor of Red Arrow International, ional, says: “For many years, our endorses the comments made telenovelas have had a strong above: “The volume of locally presence in Turkey. Titles such produced drama series is a as Hidden Passion [Pasion de challenge for distributors. But Gavilanes], The Storm [La Toras the number of channels inmenta], Betrayed [La Traicion] creases — particularly the payand Sweet Secret [Dame ChocTV and VOD platforms — the olate] have left a mark on Turkish opportunities for us to bring audiences, and Second Chance our mix of US, UK, Australian, [El Cuerpo del Deseo] became Canadian, Scandi and German a sensation in the country. Teldrama to Turkey have also inemundo Internacional has discreased. CNBC-e airs our hit tributed its ready-made content crime comedy Lilyhammer, in Turkey, and also acquired and and we also work closely with sold formats. One recent deal is Digiturk, which broadcasts our CinemaTV’s acquisition of the US television movies and fachit format Missing [Donde Esta tual entertainment show The Umutsuz Ev Kadinlari, the Turkish version of Desperate Housewives Elisa?].” Taste.” Underlining the growFor example, Endemol Shine Turkey, one of the few international companies to put down roots in the market, has been commissioned by Star TV to make a local version of Big Brother. Scheduled to air in primetime for 15 weeks this autumn, the show will give a good indication as to whether there is scope for alternative genres to play in premium slots.
ing appeal of factual formats, Pabst says Red Arrow is about to announce a deal for The Taste format with “a major Turkish broadcaster”. Channel expansion has also been good news for ITV Studios Global Entertainment’s Poirot and Shaftesbury’s Murdoch Mysteries, both of which air on Digiturk. Also upbeat is Anahita Kheder, FremantleMedia International (FMI) senior vice-president of Middle East, Africa and South Eastern Europe, who reports “plenty of possibilities” when it comes to doing business. “It’s a modern, exciting territory to work in and there’s the demand for both finished content. Brands including Jamie Oliver have become a huge success, and localised format adaptations, for example Turkey’s Got Talent, have performed incredibly well,” she adds. Among other FMI tape sales to Turkey are America’s Got Talent, Project Runway, Merlin and Martha Stewart’s Cooking School, while format deals have been done for Turkey’s Got Talent, Family Feud and My Mom Cooks Better Than Yours.
“Genres that work in Turkey are family competition shows, music-related talent shows and big adventure shows” ESSENTIAL TURKEY • OCTOBER 2015
DOING BUSINESS IN TURKEY
“Time, investment and understanding” What are the dos and don’ts of doing business in Turkey? Here’s what MIPCOM delegates should know before moving into this vibrant but complex market
ESSENTIAL Turkey • OCTOBER 2015
DOING BUSINESS IN TURKEY
HE NUMBER-one rule for doing business in Turkey is to respect the local culture. While the country is generally speaking more liberal that other Muslim markets such as the Middle East, it still imposes tough ethical guidelines on producers. In a recent example of the system in action, the Radio and Television Supreme Council dished out a large fine to a game show called I Don’t Know, My Spouse Knows for a segment in which husbands were filmed dancing with women as their wives looked on. The regulator said the episode was “contrary to public morality and the Turkish family structure”. Foreign format-owners are generally careful to follow the guidelines, says Anastasia Kullmann, sales manager for Turkey at DRG. “When working with Turkey, it’s important to stay sensitive to religious and social factors,” she says. “We stay away from offering any formats focused on relationships out of matrimony, as well as anything that exploits the home.” But it is still possible to have fun, Kullmann adds: “The most recent show DRG has sold into Turkey is Granny Bootcamp [to TRT], which was re-commissioned for a second series. Each week, four young women leave behind modern life — from fake tans to expensive brunches — and sign up for a weeklong, intensive, back-to-basics course, run by grannies.” Banijay International managing director Emmanuelle Namiech, who has sold a number of formats into Turkey, also cites various nogo areas: “You need to be careful with certain types of programming, keeping in mind cultural sensitivities. Shows must not include gambling or be in any way degrading. They must be suitable for the whole family,
regardless of timeslot.” Of course, the beauty of formats is that they can be adapted. The UK version of Big Brother, for example, would never make it on to Turkish TV. But Endemol Shine has just done a deal to create a local version of the show for Star TV in a format that is more in keeping with local sensibilities. Even so, it will be interesting to see how the show works out once the BB house members start talking freely among themselves. Leaving regulation aside, the Turks are friendly people who often have high levels of proficiency in languages such as English, French and Italian. Kullmann advises face-toface meetings. “This helps develop relationships and is something that we encourage at DRG and make time for,” she adds. Red Arrow’s Henrik Pabst echoes this: “To do business in Turkey, there’s no doubt that spending time in the country and building close relationships with broadcasters is fundamental — more so than in some other countries. Taking time to visit markets like DISCOP Istanbul and making regular trips are important, and we put a real emphasis on that at Red Arrow.” You also have to be prepared to fall into line with the pace of local decision-making. “We have great relationships with many Turkish broadcasters built up over many years and continue to enjoy working closely with them,” Pabst says. Working with Turkish broadcasters sometimes requires being patient with getting feedback on pitches, but also acting fast when you get their interest. Turkish buyers like to consider things carefully and then, once they have made up their mind, they want to see immediate action.” Others also emphasise the importance of
genuine, deep-rooted relationships. “Programming has to be targeted, relevant and culturally acceptable,” says Studio 100 Media CEO Patrick Elmendorff. “But we also work on the basis of long-term partnerships as well as project-based co-operations. It’s important for us to establish personal relationship with broadcasters.” Xavier Aristimuno, senior vice-president of international business development and digital media at Telemundo Internacional, says that the relationship between his company and broadcasters in Turkey has been cultivated through many years. “In this time, we’ve been able to establish a learning of each other’s cultures and practices, allowing us to share with audiences some of our best work. A relationship like this is one that takes time, investment and understanding.” Mutual benefit is a key theme for Aristimuno: “Working hand in hand, we collaborated in a mutual exchange that resulted in the unprecedented production of a telenovela inspired by a Turkish script — the Telemundo production Forbidden Love [Pasion Prohibida], based on the iconic story Ask-ı Memnu.” He adds that, for Turkish broadcasters, this experience resulted in “a greater understanding of Latin American production and distribution”. All3media International senior format sales executive Facundo Bailez has one top tip for success: “Most of our deals have been made through local production companies, which highlights the importance of knowing and working closely with this community. Broadcasters can be slower in making decisions for non-primetime content, but the relationship they have with producers can make a project a reality fairly quickly.”
“It’s important to stay sensitive to religious and social factors. We stay away from offering any formats focused on relationships out of matrimony”
ESSENTIAL TURKEY • OCTOBER 2015
Well connected 29
Kanal7.com, izle7.com, tvyo and Paramparca on Instagram with over 108,000 followers
Turkey is one of the hottest digital-media markets on the planet, with 35 millionplus internet users, soaring 3G subscriptions and a new ultra-high-speed 4G network in the pipeline. No surprise, then, that Turkey’s booming media industry is being increasingly driven by internet access and online advertising. Juliana Koranteng reports
N AUGUST of this year, three of the country’s leading wireless carriers, Turkcell, Vodafone and Avea, offered more than the predicted €3.96bn for licences to operate ultra-speed 4G mobile networks. Considering that 4G’s more powerful frequencies would enable the nation’s fastgrowing number of smartphone users to
access social-media and video content more easily, digital media remains a force to reckon with in Turkey. Indeed, the top TV mediaowners have adopted social media as essential to the distribution and marketing of their multiplatform strategies. “These days, your digital storefront extends to social-media marketing sites like Facebook
ESSENTIAL Turkey • OCTOBER 2015
and Twitter, and it’s time to start capitalising on it,” says Unal Yuksel, CEO of Dogus Digital, a subsidiary of privately owned media and industrial conglomerate Dogus Holding. “If your company still doesn’t have a social-media account fan page, it’s time to get with the programme and bring yourself up to speed, or risk lagging behind the competition.”
Dogus Digital’s role is to collaborate with sister company Dogus Yayin Grubu (Dogus Media Group), which recently cemented a major agreement, including an advertising-sales representation deal, with the US’ Discovery Communications. Dogus Media Group’s portfolio includes eight TV channels, four radio networks and 12 online brands, including tvyo, the premium live and on-demand ad-funded multiplatform service. And Dogus Digital is responsible for taking “the media group and its core business models into the digital realm”, Yuksel says. Another Turkish player placing digital media at its strategic core is Kanal 7, the national TV network. Programmes can be watched live on the Kanal7.com website and all shows are available on a dedicated catch-up website called izle7.com. At Kanal 7, social media is more than just a marketing tool — it is used to interact with the audience. Additionally, original content is made exclusively for the network’s socialmedia pages. “We also have [an app] for mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. Users can reach us anytime, from anywhere,” says Ihsan Aydin, Kanal 7’s head of social media. “We have Facebook, Twitter and Vimeo accounts and we create content that fits these accounts in order to interact with users. We value social media as an alternative media and we sometimes do special projects exclusively for social-media users.” Whatever regulatory restrictions there might be, social media is pervasive. Alexa, the international service that tracks websites’ online visitors and analyses user behaviour, ranked the local edition of search engine Google, Facebook, the international version of Google, YouTube and Twitter as Turkey’s five most popular websites earlier this year. Indeed, Google’s popularity lured Yandex, its Russian search-engine rival, into Turkey in 2011 and it has since been making an impact too. In response to the Turkish consumers’ enthusiasm for social media, LiquidThread, the branded-content unit of international
Endemol Shine’s Hakan Eren
ORIGINAL THINKING ENDEMOL Shine Turkey is investing in original online and other digital content for local audiences, especially in the gaming and lifestyle genres. It is operating its own niche streaming OTT channel on YouTube called Bir Demet Anne locally – Baby And Childcare internationally – presented by Turkish celebrity Demet Tuncer. And there are plans to set up additional similar ventures. “We aim to encompass digital in all programme commissions and have several projects specifically for online in the pipeline,” says Hakan Eren, Endemol Shine Group Turkey’s commercial director. “We are also in talks with Twitter to monetise short-video content for our shows with brands, based on an advertising revenue share model.” advertising media agency Starcom MediaVest Group, created a second-screen app for award-winning drama series Kara Para Ask (Black Money Love) on ATV network. The second-screen initiative also involved the local division of South Korean electronic goods giant Samsung and Turkish app developer Tagvance Media. Competing with the established terrestrial networks, including public broadcaster TRT, commercial rivals ATV, Kanal D and Kanal 7,
and cable/satellite pay-TV platforms such as Digiturk and D-Smart, is the new generation of internet-distributed video-entertainment services and telecoms-operated TV platforms. Two popular online video-entertainment platforms are multichannel networks Nokta Medya Internet and ILS Vision, a subsidiary of ILSTurk, a rights-management company that distributes on-demand entertainment aimed at the Turkish diaspora. Among the nation’s telecommunication giants active in TV entertainment is Turkcell, with more than 34 million mobile subscribers and 1.34 million fixed-line customers. It operates triple-play platform Turkcell Superonline, which includes Turkcell TV+, a subscription-funded multiscreen service delivered to computers, mobile devices and smart TV sets. Turkcell TV+ is one of Turkey’s first OTT (over-the-top) streaming services. The 175-year-old former state-owned Turk Telekom, with its 13 million fixed-line users and 17 million mobile subscribers, offers internet access via its TTNET subsidiary. Its multi-channel IPTV platform Tivibu had recorded 1.7 million subscribers by March this year. The Tivibu Go version enables multiplatform customers to access the channels online, on mobile and via smart TV. And Vodafone Turkey, part of the UK multinational telecoms conglomerate, has been offering a multiplatform streaming service since mid-2014 for its 21 million mobile customers. International content-owners understand Turkish consumers’ fervour for digital media. Hakan Eren, Endemol Shine Group Turkey’s commercial director, points to the company’s wide-ranging use of localised socialmedia and digital platforms to enable hit shows on clients’ networks to reach today’s increasingly fragmented audiences. “We have a 360 approach to marketing shows digitally and use YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, ensuring each [social-media] platform is active and updated regularly,” Eren says. “There’s a lot of crosspromotion between accounts so we can tap into the loyal fan base of our shows.”
These days, your digital storefront extends to social-media marketing sites like Facebook and Twitter ESSENTIAL TURKEY • OCTOBER 2015
DIGITAL TURKEY This means complementing Endemol Shine’s own digital activities with those of the networks with which it works. “Our company has a huge audience reach and 3.5 million social-media fans and followers,” Eren adds. “Our most popular series in this space is Broken Pieces (Paramparca), the hit drama for Star TV, which has over 105,000 subscribers on YouTube, 108,000 followers on Instagram, 31,000 followers on Twitter and 190,000 Facebook fans.” Endemol Shine Turkey does not rely only on the marketing potential of digital media. It also capitalises on all tools, enabling fans to watch shows literally anytime, anywhere. “Extending our TV brands is the main focus of our digital-media strategy and a great example of this is Broken Pieces, which has its own YouTube channel that has had over 73 million views in less than a year,” Eren adds. “We also create dedicated websites for our shows and, where relevant, apps are included.” Another show to benefit from Endemol Shine’s digital know-how is The People’s Choice, the first-ever interactive game show for ATV. Eren explains how it yielded dividends for the network: “It was complemented by a locally created app, which was
THE RISE OF MOBILE
Data from eMarketer shows mobilephone penetration will increase to 75.7% of the population (now 81.6 million) by 2019, from 72.7% this year. The number of smartphones will rise to 48 million in four years’ time, from 29.6 million today. downloaded over 500,000 times. It helped ATV to attract the young demographic back to the channel.” There have been widespread reports about government concerns — and action against — social media sites some of whose content is in conflict with Turkish cultural sensitivities. But for many determined TV entertainment suppliers it seems to be business as usual. Kanal 7’s Aydin says: “We have never met any restrictions within the country that made [social-media use] difficult.”
Award-winning drama series Black Money Love (Kara Para Ask)
We sometimes do special projects exclusively for social-media users ESSENTIAL TURKEY • OCTOBER 2015
At Endemol Shine Turkey, Eren adds: “We have been extremely fortunate and haven’t experienced the legal setbacks that have affected others in the region.” Although regulatory obstacles have not been an issue for Dogus Digital, Yuksel admits it is a reality that cannot be ignored. “Restrictions, just as elsewhere, do exist in Turkey,” he says. “One form came into effect on November 22, 2011 [introduced] by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority as a protection filter for families and children. Turkey remains one of the few countries blocking access according to a centralised blacklist [of websites].” Meanwhile the online growth continues. In 2011, Turkish online video entertainment network Nokta Medya Internet became one of the digital ventures to benefit from the $11.6bn invested by Intel Capital, the venture-capital arm of the computer-chip manufacturing giant, in 57 countries. The following year, Intel Capital — which has backed digital success stories including India’s Hungama Digital Media, California-based digital advertising service provider YuMe, pioneering mobile platform for female gamers CrowdStar and global data-analysis giant Gigya — became the first Silicon Valley investor to open an office in Turkey. Meanwhile, early this year, global advertising conglomerate WPP Group snapped up a majority stake in Turkish digital-marketing agency directComm Marketing Group via its media-investment arm GroupM. This follows GroupM’s takeover of local mobilemedia agency and technology company Aerodeon last year. Intel Capital and WPP are among the international companies responding to data forecasts that position Turkey as one of the world’s fastest growing markets for online and mobile media and entertainment. Of the country’s population of 78 million citizens, the estimated number of internet users is 45 million — a figure that is expected to grow to 56 million by 2019, according to eMarketer. And with government statistics indicating that half the total population is under the age of 30.7, there is plenty of room for growth in
DIGITAL TURKEY digital adoption. ComScore, the US-based international digital media measurement group, calculates that more than 60% of Turkey’s online users log on daily. It is mobile internet usage, however, that is growing so rapidly, prompting comScore to launch its mobile-measurement platform Mobile Metrix in the country last year. In 2014, comScore ranked local media brands Nokta, online publisher Yeni Medya Elektronik, web portal Mynet and online newspaper group Hurriyet Internet Group as among the leading online websites accessed via mobile devices based on the number of visitors.
UK-headquartered BMI Research reports that Turkey’s number of broadband connections should grow to 10.2 million in 2019, from 8.8 million last year and 5.3 million in 2012. The demand for connected mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, is escalating. Based on data supplied by the country’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK), Turkey has seen the number of the existing 3G mobile sub-
Kanal 7’s head of social media Ihsan Aydin
THE RISE OF OTT
Digital TV Research estimates that between 2014 and 2020, Turkish OTT homes will generate an extra $219m for the OTT sector, which will grow by another 2.37 million households during the same period. scribers soar to 59 millionplus this year, from 51 million last year and only 14 million in 2011. In response, the government put out for tender the auction for the country’s first ultra-speed internet 4G licences in August. In fact, in this respect Turkey has been lagging behind most developed markets, which have been offering 4G for a few years. But the country’s penetration of mobile devices has been accelerating. At one point, this even prompted the government to recommend Turkey be the first country to invite bids for the even more powerful 5G frequencies. That was until experts pointed out that 5G’s required infrastructure does not yet exist. And once 4G services (the auction’s bidders were local wireless carriers Avea and Turkcell plus the UK multinational Vodafone) become established, research firm GfK predicts that the number of post-paid mobile subscribers will catch up with the number of pre-paid users. These positive predictions provide the backdrop for the expected boom in digital advertising and subscription revenues. Digital TV Research sees Turkey becoming the second largest OTT TV and video market in the EEMEA (Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa) in five years’ time, after Russia. Accountancy giant PwC believes the country’s rocketing digital-media businesses will see revenues from internet subscriptions grow
at an average annual rate of more than 14% to $6.65bn between 2014 and 2019. Also by 2019, about 50% of internet access revenues will come from the country’s tech-oriented millennials, who will be embracing mobile as a result of cheaper wireless devices. Mobile internet users will grow to almost 54 million in 2019, from almost 26 million in 2014. Understandably, advertisers are eager to reach this burgeoning digital-media market. Internet ad revenue is forecast by PwC to ascend at a healthy average annual rate of 15%-plus to $1.58bn in 2019, from $783m last year. Of the total, internet video ads bring in a comparatively small amount. But young Turkish consumers are avid viewers of online video, driving the associated online video advertising to grow at a rate of 52.7% annually to yield $75m by 2019, from $8m in 2014. With YouTube owner Google and social-media giant Facebook among Turkey’s most visited websites (as opposed to only mobile), investing in technology to distribute more professionally produced videos and video ads in Turkey should have a healthy future.
Unal Yuksel, CEO of Dogus Digital
Extending our TV brands is the main focus of our digital-media strategy. A great example is Broken Pieces, which has its own YouTube channel that has had over 73 million views in less than a year ESSENTIAL TURKEY • OCTOBER 2015
Turkey’s got talent Turkey’s wealth of creative talent, both in front of and behind the camera, is a reflection of its rich artistic and cultural heritage. Here, we profile five artists who epitomise Turkey’s vibrant creative scene The actor: MEHMET GUNSUR MEHMET Gunsur is one of Turkey’s most respected actors, dividing his time between jobs in Turkey and Italy. He is best known for having played Sehzade Mustafa in Magnificent Century, but is now working on his own project in partnership with his wife, Caterina Mongio. “It’s a webbased production about a physician who discovers he is one of 13 reincarnated souls and has special powers,” Gunsur says. “The story is about the illness of the earth and asks how we are going to cure it.” The production will be released in three seasons, each comprising around 18-20 episodes of 15 minutes each. The production quality is high, with lots of beautiful Turkish and European locations on display. Explaining why he and Mongio decided to produce for the internet, Gunsur says: “The web gave us greater creative freedom to tell the story we wanted. It is also a great platform for connecting with the kind of audiences that are concerned with the issues the story raises.”
The director: CEM KARCI CEM KARCI has established himself as one of Turkey’s best young TV directors. After tackling human trafficking in the critically acclaimed Ucurum (The Cliff), he co-directed Ay Yapim’s hit series for ATV, Karadiyi. His latest project is an adaptation of Warner Bros.’ Pretty Little Liars (Tatlı Kucuk Yalancılar), produced by O3 Media for Star TV. “I was sent the script for Tatlı Kucuk Yalancılar and loved it as soon as I read it,” Karci says. “I knew I could try something new with it because Turkish TV doesn’t have dramas about subjects like serial killers or ghosts. At the moment, we have lots of romantic comedies, but my series isn’t like that. If it’s successful, it could be huge for the Turkish TV sector.”
The writers: KEREM DEREN and PINAR BULUT DEREN HUSBAND-and-wife team Kerem Deren and Pinar Bulut Deren are responsible for some of Turkey’s most critically acclaimed dramas, including Ezel, Ucurum and Suskunlar. They have also opened The Writer’s Room, a ground-breaking initiative designed to nurture the professionalism of the screenwriting business in Turkey. Kerem Deren has also taught writing classes at Bogazici University. Kerem Deren believes the success of Turkish drama is to do with the fact that “TV is not just TV in Turkey… We don’t really think of fiction as fiction. It’s a glimpse into our lives. I think that brings a freshness that is attractive to other markets.” The Derens are among the most progressive of Turkey’s writers when it comes to pushing form and content: “A lot of Turkish series require high volumes of scripts to be written every week. But in our most recent project 20 Minutes [produced by Ay Yapim], we deliberately limited it to 26 episodes so it couldn’t go on forever.” 20 Minutes is a 24-style beat-the-clock thriller about a man racing to save his wife. It sold to SVT in Sweden, suggesting that the Derens may have hit on a successful formula for reaching new international markets.
The composer: AYTEKIN ATAS AYTEKIN Atas is one of Turkey’s most talented TV composers, having written musical scores for numerous series including The Storm, The Fall Of Leaves, Game Of Silence, Magnificent Century and Pretty Little Liars. For Magnificent Century, “we had a long process of brainstorming before we found the right musical language”, he says. “In the end, we created a hybrid sound that used Alaturka melodies, western instruments like the electric guitar and a symphony orchestra to create a glamorous imperial sound.” Music plays a critical role in Turkish drama, Atas says: “The producer always wants to know the music plan early on. Because dizis are two hours long, the music is filling in a lot of slow sections in the narrative. So it takes on a real importance in terms of keeping the audience interested.”
ESSENTIAL Turkey • OCTOBER 2015
Making history Turkey’s content creators have proved themselves skilled at producing a wide range of genres. But the dramas that are currently capturing the most international attention are the country’s lavish period pieces
URKEY’s Ottoman-era dramas have introduced viewers to the kind of sumptuous, exotic and politically charged stories more usually associated with the UK’s Tudors or Italy’s Borgias. The first big historical drama to breakthrough was 1001 Nights (Binbir Gece), says Izzet Pinto, CEO of leading Turkish distributor Global Agency. Produced by TMC Film for Kanal D from 2006-2009, the 90-episode show was a big hit in the Middle East and
went on to sell in more than 60 territories worldwide. While 1001 Nights was undoubtedly a trailblazer, it was soon eclipsed by Magnificent Century (Muhtesem Yuzyil), an epic series set during the Ottoman era. Aired initially on Show TV (2011) before switching to rival network Star TV (2012-2014), the 139-episode production has become a cultural phenomenon. Not only has it been sold to over 60 territories by Global Agency, but it is also the
ESSENTIAL TURKEY • OCTOBER 2015
subject of a spectacular exhibition in Istanbul. The show was made by Tims Productions, whose director of international operations Selin Arat says: “In around 2009, my boss, Timur Savci, wanted to take the company in a new direction. He had seen the success of shows like The Tudors, so he started talking to one of Turkey’s leading writers, Meral Okay [since deceased], about doing something similar for Turkey. The result was Magnificent Century. The
Magnificent Century — Muhtesem Yuzyil — an epic series set during the Ottoman era
three companies.” Perhaps not surprisingly, Tims is also working on a follow-up series, “which looks at the legacy of Magnificent Century”, Arat reports. “Set 1,200 years later, it focuses on Kosem Sultan, a very powerful woman who rises from being a slave to ruling the Ottoman Empire. It’s very exciting, but also challenging, because you keep having to ask yourself — how do you surpass what you already accomplished?”
“Some Turkish producers only want local success. But when we do a show, we want it to be for everyone” idea was attractive because the era of the Ottoman Empire is very rich in content. But it was a financial risk, because doing a period drama like this is very expensive. Fortunately the show [set in the 16th century] was very successful at home and in the international market.” Explaining Magnificent Century’s appeal, Arat suggests it is partly about the production quality and partly about the Ottoman
backdrop. “But it is also very global,” she adds. “At the heart of the production is an amazing love story that has captured everyone’s imagination.” While the ready-made has done well internationally, Arat says there is also interest from the US in producing an adaptation of Magnificent Century in the English language: “We have a company in LA called Tims LA that is working on a remake of Magnificent Century. So far, we have had interest from
ESSENTIAL TURKEY • OCTOBER 2015
Tims’ success with period drama has sparked a positive response from public broadcaster TRT, which commissioned and broadcast a powerful piece called Resurrection. A top-rating show in Turkey, it tells the story of Ertugrul, the father of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire. Resurrection, which is distributed internationally by TRT, has also had some success internationally and, like Magnificent Century, has spawned a sequel. Production was under way this summer at the Beykoz Kundura studio/backlot in Istanbul. TRT also invested heavily in another period piece called Filinta, which TRT international programme sales executive Meltem Tumturk Akyol describes as being “a kind of Ottoman Sherlock Holmes”. A lavish production, Filinta is being shot at the Kocaeli-based Seka film set, where copies of Istanbul’s Beyoglu, Istiklal Avenue and Pera area have been created. The first season had around 100 episodes and there are plans for a total of three seasons. The idea of combining the Ottoman era with the detective genre is a pioneering development for Turkey, and one that Tumturk Akyol hopes will appeal to the international market. Filinta is also interesting because it was produced with the international audience front of mind. While most Turkish dramas until now have been produced purely for the domestic audience and then benefited from global sales almost as an afterthought, Filinta’s series producer Serdar Ogretici made it clear from the outset that he intended Filinta to be a work that would captivate the international market. This ambition is echoed by Tims’ Arat, who says: “Some Turkish producers only want local success. But when we do a show, we want it to be for everyone. More Turkish producers should consider the world as their domain, not just Turkey.”
Why we love dizis Turkish TV dramas — known locally as dizis — have become one of the country’s most popular cultural exports in recent years. But what exactly are they? Below is quick guide to Turkey’s favourite genre
HAT is a dizi? Dizis are primetime homegrown dramas that air on all Turkey’s main channels. Usually shown weekly although sometimes daily, the standard episode length is two hours, which means they need to be edited to fit international schedules. Typically, dizis are
preceded in the schedule by what is called a “summary”, a repeat of the previous week’s episode. Key characteristics are that they are high quality with big-name actors. Why are they so important? Turkish viewers love dizis, and so do advertisers. Around 80% of the country’s TV ad
ESSENTIAL Turkey • OCTOBER 2015
revenue is targeted at them, which means they are the key competitive battleground. They have also become a lucrative export for Turkey, with titles including Noor, Magnificent Century, As Time Goes By, 1001 Nights, Lovebird, Love And Punishment, Forbidden Love and The Fall Of Leaves helping to generate around $200m a year.
DRAMA What are they about? In general, dizis have a strong family/neighbourhood theme. It is common to see dramas about people coming to the big city and the stresses this places on their family, romantic comedies and historical pieces. However, dizis have become increasingly diverse in recent times, tackling more hardhitting subjects. In part, this is because of the intense domestic competition, but also because a growing number of local scripteddrama producers are now eying the international prize. The End, for example, is about a woman who must navigate a web of lies as she searches for her husband whom she presumed dead following a plane crash. This is a new kind of dizi and one that has proved to have strong appeal internationally. The End has sold to SVT in Sweden and secured a format deal in the US. How are they produced? Most dizis are created against incredibly tight production timetables, with an episode being written and shot in around four or five days — the period from transmission to transmission. This is back-breaking work, but it does mean stories can be adapted to reflect audience tastes, for example, if viewers fall in love with a particular character. However, this production process does not apply to some recent epics, for example Magnificent Century, which require longer lead times. How many dizis are produced each year? Local producers estimate 70 to 80 new titles appear each year, on top of returning series. New titles are ruthlessly culled after a few episodes if they fail to hit certain ratings benchmarks. But the ones that survive tend to run for a number of seasons and also have a decent life on the international circuit.
Resurrection, jointly sold by TRT and ITV Inter Medya
When are they launched? Echoing the situation elsewhere in the world, the key launch time is September. However,
networks including Kanal D have also found that January can be a useful time to try out new shows because the audience is big at this time of year. Summer is when broadcasters experiment, and this can have a major impact if a drama strikes a chord — as Fox has found with several light, happy, youthoriented shows, for example Cherry Season. Why are dizis two hours long? This is partly an attempt to lock in ad revenue, but also because Turkish audiences like to dwell on emotions. There are lots of long, lingering scenes. This makes the musical score in dizis especially important. What makes them stand out? Turks say that the big point of difference with dizis is that they are not shot in studios. They are filmed either in genuine neighbourhoods or in backlots such as Beykoz Kundura, an evocative site on the Asian side of Istanbul. A former shoe factory that has been turned into a production hub, Beykoz Kundura has hosted productions including Resurrection and Karadiyi, the set for which is still standing. This “neighbourhood” approach gives Turkish dizis a unique character that seems to sell well. It has also encouraged a huge tourist influx, notably from the Middle East. There has been talk of a Fatmagul location being rebuilt in the Middle East. What are their future prospects? Turkey expects TV exports to be worth $1bn by 2023. But there are challenges on the horizon. With leading networks competing for the best writers, directors, producers and, most importantly, stars, the cost of producing dizis is rising faster than advertising revenue. As a result, the economics of the genre are becoming tougher, which could lead to changes in the market. It seems unlikely, however, that such a staple of modern life in Turkey would suffer from such economic fluctuations. The challenge is for the market for dizis to adapt.
“Turkish viewers love dizis — and so do advertisers. Around 80% of the country’s TV ad revenue is targeted at them” ESSENTIAL TURKEY • OCTOBER 2015
The intro sequence to Skyfall was shot in and around Istanbul
If it’s good enough for Bond... A key focus for the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, according to president Ibrahim Caglar, is to attract international producers to the country. Here’s what you need to know about shooting in Turkey CREWS AND EQUIPMENT 38
Turkey has a dynamic film and TV production industry, so domestic crews are of a good standard. They are also hard working and inexpensive. Recent international movies to have visited the country include James Bond movie Skyfall, Ben Affleck’s Argo, Taken 2 starring Liam Neeson and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, all of which suggest there is no problem in terms of pulling together a production team. Istanbul is where much of the industry is based. Most complex productions will need a local production-services company to help source equipment/extras etc.
LOCATIONS This is a definite plus point. Istanbul is a spectacular city, home to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace and the Bosphorus Strait. Outside the city, there is a wide array of looks. The Turkish Film Commission says: “A film whose story takes place in the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Palestine and Jordan can be shot in cities in the South East of Turkey, while the Aegean region is full of olive trees and vineyards, which can be the setting for Greece, Italy and Spain. The Taurus mountains in the south can be the setting for Switzerland and the French Alps, while the Black Sea region is similar to the UK and north European coun-
tries.” Unique sites in Turkey include the Pamukkale thermal pools, Cappadocia, the Turkish Riviera, Mardin and Mount Ararat.
INFRASTRUCTURE According to the Turkish Film Commission, accommodation facilities range from multinational hotel chains to small, family-run hotels. The country’s extensive transportation network is both efficient and cost-effective, with Turkey’s airports welcoming some 12,000 international flights per week. For producers wishing to transport film equipment by sea, many ports are open to international freight ships. If there is a downside, it is that the traffic in Istanbul can be very heavy.
INCENTIVES The biggest thing working against Turkey right now is the lack of audiovisual tax incentives (which are available, for example, in Eastern Europe, the UAE and South Africa). Having said this, the country’s culture ministry announced at the end of last year that Turkey is planning to introduce a 25% tax incentive for international film and TV producers. This has not yet happened but it will make a difference if and when it does. It is worth noting that Turkey may extend ad-hoc incentives to prestigious productions, as it reportedly did with Argo.
ESSENTIAL Turkey • OCTOBER 2015
STUDIOS Turkey does not have the kind of worldclass studio complexes you will find in the UK, Germany or Canada. But it does have several significant players, such as Istanbul Film Studios (IFS), a division of one of Turkey’s largest business groups, MV Holdings. Today, IFS offers 19 film, TV and photographic studios ranging in size from 225 sq m to 1,687 sq m. It also offers equipment rental services. Separately, the southern city of Antalya is keen to establish itself as the prime production hub for Turkey’s film industry, mixing local and international work. In an interview last year with Variety, the city’s mayor Menderes Turel said he would like the city, which is on the Mediterranean, to have a state-ofthe-art film studio up and running within three years.
OTHER PLUS POINTS The Turkish authorities, with backing from organisations including the Istanbul Chamber Of Commerce, have simplified the film and TV permitting process in the last couple of years. Exchange rates also make Turkey relatively cheap right now. The climate is also good, which means you can count on long shooting days.
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