NATPE Spotlight: Global Agency

One year after being celebrated at Mipcom as a country of honor, Turkey is back in Cannes with a bounty of fresh programming.

As Turkish TV dramas continue to expand their global footprint beyond the Middle East, conquering eyeballs from Managua to Milan, the industry is weathering local political turbulence and preparing to take its invasion to the next level.

A slew of new shows will be tub-thumped at lavish launches during the market. Fox Network Group is throwing a Turkish scripted content party for its new local hits “Wings of Love” and “No. 309: Room to Remember,” with producers and talent in tow.

Istanbul-based sales company Global Agency will be flying guests by helicopter from Cannes to Monte Carlo for the presentation of its new drama “Mother.”

Significantly, Global Agency also expects to do brisk business with its non-scripted formats, including “Shopping Monsters,” in which five women go on a four-hour buying marathon — the winner being the one who ends up being considered most stylish. It’s playing in more than 20 territories, including China, and reaping standout ratings in Germany and France.


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“Our TV industry, until around 2010, was not as structured as Bollywood or Hollywood,” says Arzu Ozturkmen, a performing arts professor with close ties to the Turkish TV production community. “It was still producing mostly for the domestic market.”

Turkey now has a quasi U.S. studio-style industrial machine in place and is taking further strides toward consolidating its status as an international TV production powerhouse.

Ozturkmen says the shift from dramas towards unscripted formats is indicative of this new phase.

Still, TV drama, known in Turkey as “dizi,” remains the industry’s cornerstone, and also it’s biggest cultural export.

After booming in the Middle East and the Balkans, dizi is now taking over TV homes in Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and entering India. And Turkish dramas have conquered Latin America, long known as telenovela land.

This seemed as improbable as selling ice to the Eskimos.

“For years we would pitch them to Latin American buyers at [the] NATPE [market] and they would say, ‘oh no, please!,’” says Fredrik af Malmborg, managing director of Eccho Rights, the only non-Turkish drama distributor.

Then Chilean private TV channel Mega took a chance. In 2014 it aired “1001 Nights,” loosely based on the “Arabian Nights” tales in a contempo context. Female empowerment show “Fatmagul,” and crimer “Ezel” followed fast.

“Mega went from being the fifth channel in Chile — and losing $5 million a year — to being the No. 1 channel in 2015, and earning $5 million a year,” Malmborg says.

All over Latin America Turkish series are now among the top five programs in all categories.

“The biggest consumers [of these shows] are Latin American and Hispanic U.S. audiences,” says Prentiss Fraser, senior VP Global Entertainment Sales at FIC, which has more than 1,000 hours of Turkish drama in its sales catalog. Europe is next.

Marking a first, romcom “Cherry Season,” a smash hit on Fox TV in Turkey, aired in Italy this summer on Mediaset’s flagship Canale 5, scoring 17% average audience share.

“The beauty of the Turkish market is that Turkey as a nation is a very creative, innovative media culture,” says Adam Theiler, general manager of Fox Networks Turkey, where it has been running on the local Fox TV channel for more than a decade.

Why do they work?

“The Turks are very good at telling stories of jealousy and revenge, and stories that are based on families,” he says.

Malmborg points out two key aspects that make the dramas click: they often interweave elements that appeal to both females and males, such as romance and crime, and production values are fantastic.

But can the Turkish TV boom, which accounts for some $250 million in exports to more than 140 countries according to the Turkish Exporters Assembly, sustain its breakneck pace?

“Unfortunately there is only a maximum of four or five good shows per year coming out of Turkey,” says Global Agency CEO Izzet Pinto. He says “huge competition” is causing some companies to rush through pre-production too hastily.

Luckily, turbulence due to July’s failed coup attempt isn’t affecting the industry.

“The advertising sector is quite stable,” he says. “As long as it stays that way, production budgets are stable, and we can continue to come up with good, top quality projects.”

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