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Turkish TV Dramas Take Edgier Turn in Aim for Bigger Global Sales

Turkish TV dramas continue to make inroads around the world, primarily in linear and pay-TV slots congenial to these sophisticated soaps, which are generally sold in packages of 100 commercial hours per show. But bolder new titles in six-10 episode formats are increasingly being made for streaming platform play.

“The market is hot: we are producing like crazy despite the pandemic,” says Ahmet Ziyalar, chief of Istanbul-based sales and production company Inter Medya, who notes “it’s really hard to find available talents.”

Prices for Turkish product dropped some in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, he points out, “because traditional broadcasters lost their advertising revenues.”

But ad intake is now starting to pick up. “We are signing more contracts,” says Ziyalar, who adds that due to lower prices “his revenues are the same” as before the coronavirus crisis.

Inter Medya’s top-selling shows include global hit “The Ambassador’s Daughter,” centering on a complicated romance between the daughter of an ambassador and the son of a farmer. In March, the show launched stateside in the top slot on Spanish-language media giant Univision, which was the fastest-growing media group in the U.S. last year.

At MipTV, Inter Medya will launch three shorter, edgier 10-episode series: vigilante crime drama “Respect,” dark romantic drama “Interrupted” and “Naked,” in which an escort who lives with her grandmother falls in love with a man a few days from getting married.

All three are produced for streaming platform BluTV, owned by Turkish broadcaster Kanal D.

Though Netflix is currently the only global streamer playing, and producing, Turkish dramas, two local streaming platforms, Gain and Exxen, launched in late 2020 following in the footsteps of BluTV. Just like Netflix and BluTV, each is set to become vehicles for bolder Turkish fare, Ziyalar says.

Geographically, top territories for Turkish dramas are Latin America; the Middle East; where they are making a comeback, Eastern Europe and Russia, where Turkish series are gaining eyeballs; and Italy and Spain, where “they are being bought for peanuts and delivering great ratings,” says Fredrik af Malmborg, managing director of Eccho Rights, which handles a slew of Turkish shows.

Turkish drama has been making strong showings in primetime on major generalist networks in Spain and Italy. Eccho’s series “Sisterhood” aired on Mediaset in Italy, and in Spain its Turkish series “Woman!” played on Antena 3, where it scored record ratings. Another Eccho-sold Turkish series, “My Daughter,” is scoring impressive primetime ratings in Spain, which af Malmborg says “is pretty incredible.”

Interestingly, Eccho Rights is getting good traction on YouTube’s premium service, where it has five different shows now scoring revenues that in some cases “alone cover up to 50% of production costs,” says af Malmborg. But linear remains the shingle’s biggest revenue source for Turkish content.
Eccho’s top sellers right now include “The Red Room,” which is a regular ratings winner on Turkey’s terrestrial channel TV8. The series is centered on a psychotherapist’s office in Istanbul where women talk about traumas caused by domestic violence such as battery and rape.

Af Malmborg says “Red Room,” which is based on a book drawing from real cases, is part of “a trend in Turkey that is going towards bringing more authentic real-life stories” to the screen. Another show, “The Innocents,” adapted from a psychiatrist’s memoirs with a similar psycho-social realist flavor, is scoring stellar ratings on Turkey’s state-owned TRT channel. “The Innocents” is sold internationally by Mistco. Both “Red Room” and “The Innocents” are produced by OGM Pictures.

At MipTV, Eccho will launch female empowerment drama “Chrysalis,” was also produced by OGM and based on another novel by “Red Room” author Gülseren Budayıcıoğlu.

Female empowerment is also the theme that powers “Redemption,” a show about a mother’s quest to track down her kidnapped daughter. After launching on Fox TV in Turkey, this show is starting to get international traction for prominent Turkish sales company Global Agency, says its chief Izzet Pinto.

Their biggest global hit is rom-com “Daydreamer,” which has been consistently scoring double-digit ratings in Italy on Mediaset.

Global Agency, which in recent years branched out successfully into formats, is also scoring brisk global sales to pop music game show “Good Singers,” adapted by TF1 in France.

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