VoV Web Desk

From Dubai to Chile, Turkish series expand their empire

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

ISTANBUL: In the skies above Istanbul’s Tophane neighbourhood, seagulls are sent scattering by a drone that’s filming a policeman arresting a young woman on the streets below.

But it’s for a television series called “Degenler”, one of about 60 filmed annually in Turkiye that have made Istanbul and other Turkish cities familiar to viewers in nearly 170 countries around the world. Over the past 15 years, Turkiye has established itself as the foremost exporter of series after the United States and Britain.

“Latin Americans find Turkish series very close to their culture,” said Erdi Isik, development manager at Ay Yapim — Turkiye’s leading exporter last year and whose production “Yargi” (“Family Secrets”) last November won an International Emmy for best telenovela.

“When I show samples to a panel, even if they don’t understand a word of Turkish, they catch what it is about because the family culture is very much the same,” he said. Censorship constraints in Turkiye also provide more modest material, important for audiences in the Middle East and Spanish-speaking countries who are accustomed to watching soap operas as a family.

However, “we think of the Turkish market first,” he said, even though “we pick actors that can fit international expectations”, citing a list of about 20 actors that appeal to the public outside Turkiye.

“Bitter Lands”, another success story, won best telenovela of the year in South America in 2020 with its lead actress likewise crowned. Long popular in the Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans, all once ruled by the Ottoman Empire, Turkish series about history, family intrigues and thwarted love stories are now present on every continent, even in the United States where they have captured the Hispanic market.

“They are now broadcast in prime-time in Spain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt,” said Xavier Rambert, head of research and marketing at Glance, an audience measurement company in London, who praises the “effectiveness” of Turkish productions.

“Their ability to provide masses of content at very controlled costs makes it possible to fill the programmes at reasonable prices,” he added. In total, nearly 700 million viewers enjoy “alla turca” telenovelas, according to the Turkish culture ministry.

The success is also due to the quality of the productions, said Ozlem Ozsumbul, sales director at Madd, the company which distributes series produced by Ay Yapim. “We always shoot on location”, she said.

Each episode is written and shot from one week to the next, based on a general plot which evolves to adjust to the audience. A two-hour episode can be entirely written, shot and produced in six days.

Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2024

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *