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The Heyday of Turkish Content
Content from Turkey and the Middle East is booming: increased local production on par with a rising international demand. In the following article, ttv presents a thorough, skepticism-proof analysis on the matter.
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Magnificent Century, one of the products recently distributed by The Global Agency.
With an annual 9% growth in GDP, Turkey is immersed in one of its most prosperous economic eras. Local content production growing along with the ad market, pay TV and overall income make up the country's present reality.

The sun is also shining in the Middle East, where a fruitful oil industry has allowed it to diversify its economy, invest in new content and launch numerous TV channels.

The current regional context could not be better suited for Turkish content sales. According to Kerem Catay, Production VP at Ay Yapim, who spoke about the issue at the last Mipcom in Cannes during the "Drama Global Production Trends: Turkish Drama: The New Delight?" conference; Kuzey Guney by Kanal D was sold at a whopping US$ 120,000 per episode.
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If this number seems a tad farfetched, even more so will the US$ 1,500 offered on average back in 2008 for each episode of a Turkish series in comparison to today's price tag, which according to the conference's moderator Nabil Kazan, President and CEO of K & Partners TV Services Inc, is close to US$ 75,000.

In this scenario, Turkey stands as a market marked by stiff local competition, which explains the high-quality of its products and consequently their pan-regional popularity. Kanal D's editor in chief Pelin Distas Yasaroglu explained that out of the 60 dramas produced every year in the country, almost 50% don't run for longer than 6 episodes due to the strong competition among the different local channels.

Beyond local context, the truth is Turkish drama has become extremely popular in several regions, especially the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), as well as Eastern Europe, the Balkans and more recently, Russia, where dramas such as Magnificent Century have scored record-breaking ratings.

"We've been pioneers in Turkish content sales," said Izzet Pinto, CEO of Turkish distributor The Global Agency. "We began with 1001 Nights in Bulgaria, and moved on to Serbia and Greece. Since then, we've managed to sign deals in over 50 territories." According to the executive, Eastern Europe has become one of the main regions for the distributor, since "each deal includes distribution in over 22 countries."

Moreover, in this international expansion Latin America has become a coveted destination for Turkish producers, whether it be for adaptations, co-productions or distribution deals. For instance Turkish distribution company ITV-Inter Medya has landed several projects in the region, such the Turkish adaptation of TVN Chile's telenovela Missing (¿Dónde está Elisa?), distributed by Telemundo Internacional. 

LOCAL PRODUCTION. Several companies are now reaping the rewards of the world's increased demand for original Turkish content. For instance, earlier this year, Banijay International sold its format My Parents Gonna Love You and Trust, a game show in which strangers must work together to win an important prize, to ATV.

The long list of examples also includes Disney EMEA, which signed a deal for the adaptation of Desperate Housewives with ATV in September; and the recently launched ITV Studios' format Come Dine With Me.

In fact, as stated by Jennifer Ebell, ITV Studios' Senior Sales Executive for CEE, Israel, Greece and Turkey, "the country's level of competition has notably promoted sales and adaptations on broadcast TV, as well as content sales for pay TV and DTT."

Thus, international companies such as Zodiak Media (with Being Human), FremantleMedia Entreprises (with Merlin) and Starz (with Spartacus: Blood and Sand), have all managed to register excellent sales results in Turkey

In addition, Turkey's growth has also translated onto other Arabic-speaking countries in the region. In fact, the Middle East and certain African countries are experiencing a promising economic situation, allowing them to invest in both new local channels and original productions.

Taking a look at Arabic channels alone, Nabil Kazan, an expert in the region, explained that over the last 18 months, 154 satellite networks have been launched, reaching a total of 650 across the region. Thus, close to US$ 14 million of the current ad pie (67%) have been devoted to TV channels.

As far as content production goes, 79 30-episode series have been produced in Egypt this year, which is clear proof of the country's growing entertainment industry.

TURKISH DRAMA: THE NEW DELIGHT? As a way to further highlight the importance Turkish content has in today's global entertainment industry, this year's Mipcom made special focus on the region by organizing a conference entitled "Drama Global Production Trends: Turkish Drama: The New Delight?", where renowned industry executives shared their outlook on the region's evolution.

The list of speakers included Izzet Pinto, CEO of Global Agency; Fadi Ismail, GM of O3 Productions and Group Director of Services at MBC Group; Pelin Distas Yasaroglu, Editor in Chief of Kanal D; and Kerem Catay, Vice President and Producer of Ay Yapim. The executives took part in this conference, addressing a series of different key topics, moderated by Nabil Kazan, President and CEO of K & Partners TV Services Inc.

Lastly, following this brief analysis of a few noteworthy regional cases, only one question remains unanswered: What's next in store for the region's local production once the highly-anticipated Arab Spring comes along?

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