Recently, I was closing an acquisition of a Turkish drama series for an Indian OTT platform and awaiting update on commercials, when my supplier within hours informed me that the show got licensed to Netflix for the same region during the same hour. This made me believe that indeed the term Fastest Moving Content Globally rightly fits the Turkish Dramas.
Turkish shows began expanding internationally in 1999, but only started to gain popularity in the early 21st century. In order to be able to produce content at a quality level competitive with the non-Turkish shows that were gaining popularity in Turkey, more money was needed. Expanding Turkish shows internationally helped make-up for that deficit. The Turkish government has created incentive by granting awards and support to the companies that are most effective in exporting internationally to further motivate the industry.
With the second largest export share of TV series, overtaking Brazilian and Mexican soap operas in popularity ratings, Turkish TV shows are the new rage of the new age with approx. 25% original stories for the foreign market. Surpassing all expectations, Turkish export has managed to engross more than $350 million in revenues, by the end of 2017 and are hugely popular in Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa.
In 2017, Turkish TV exports earned 350 million U.S. dollars making it the second largest drama exporter in the world behind the United States. According to the Secretary General of the TEA, Bader Arslan, Turkey’s yearly income from TV exports will exceed 1 billion U.S. dollars by 2023.
What makes them such a popular choice in countries which produce so many TV shows of their own? What is it that keeps the audience hooked to this new kind of translated TV show? The short answer is; diversity. Ranging from Melodramas, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Thriller and Action, the Turkish TV shows cover a large spectrum of genres, enough to get the viewers hooked and wanting more.
According to reports, Middle Eastern countries mostly watch Turkish soap operas that depict wealthy and modern life, while Latin American viewers prefer to watch period dramas. European countries show interest in thematic dramas.
For the well-known experts, who have seen it all, Turkish shows provide a completely new genre; the Turkish Super Soap. Equipped with “impossibly good looking people”, romance on an epic scale and storytelling ranging across time periods, this genre has got everything, with packaging of the highest order!
The stories of such shows often depict the thriving of the old tradition in a modern “westernized” country and maintains relevance by dealing with the social issues, family life and day to day struggles. Further, the scripts go out big on the action sequence, which keep the episodes intriguing for the kids as well as the male audience.
Traditionally, soap operas were heavily targeted towards the female audience. However, having a strong male story tied in, the Turks have made it possible to make their TV soaps appeal to the males as well. This may be a small step, but it is a giant leap in terms of the viewership.
Beautiful landscapes and views of the Bosporus from every angle are the treat to the eyes and the locations are used very well. These series allow the viewers to live vicariously through the lens and promotes the beautiful landscapes of the country. Because of such shots, there has been an increase in the tourist inflow over the years. Cashing in on the booming industry, the government has decided to subsidize the Turkish TV show.
For some viewers, the shows may tend to seem borderline ‘melodramatic: Picture a scene from “Son” (The End), where a character was shown to be crying for four minutes! However, distributors and their editing teams have managed to change bits and pieces, to suit the audience on a global scale. The crying scene had to be cut down to 30 seconds when it aired in Sweden, while it remained uncut for the Indian and Pakistani versions.
The Turks have hit some of the right nerves when it comes to content, and this demand is only going to grow. The Turkish TV drama wave hit Asia starting with Pakistan and Indonesia when, a few years ago, the leading channels suddenly aired 3 to 4 Turkish series back-to-back in prime time.
Turkish dramas are able to cross-cultural borders with their exclusive stories that have a good pick up of universal themes. But it will be interesting to see how they will penetrate the markets which are still experimenting with foreign shows.