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The Turkish TV industry is giving Hollywood a run for its money. How and why?

04-05-2018
Two Foreign Content pie charts by French researchers Eurodata TV Worldwide and Mediametrie offer clues about a disrupting development that has been noticed in the recent past by multiple participants at major global venues such as NATPE, MIP, Mipcom and the L.A. Screenings: the growing presence and momentum of a group of Turkish TV producers and distributors, that have proven able to displace Latin American telenovelas...

First part

Two Foreign Content pie charts by French researchers Eurodata TV Worldwide and Mediametrie offer clues about a disrupting development that has been noticed in the recent past by multiple participants at major global venues such as NATPE, MIP,  Mipcom and the L.A. Screenings: the growing presence and momentum of a group of Turkish TV producers and distributors, that have proven able to displace Latin American telenovelas from many screens around the word and are now occupying prime time slots previously devoted lo local programming, telenovelas or Hollywood series and movies in various countries.

The pie chart related to Worldwide markets by 2016 puts Turkey on top of the foreign content providers list, with 25% TV market share, followed by Russia --whose TV presence in the Western world is so far deemed not important--, India and the United Arab Emirates. The United States, as a source of worldwide content, appear in fourth place, with 7% share, followed closely by Brazil and Mexico, with 6% each. None of the Western European nations appears by itself as a worldwide force.

The Latin American 2017 pie identifies the U.S as its major off-region content provider, with 31% share, followed by Turkey with 23% and Western Europe --where Spain probably plays a leading role-- with 6%; Asian product, at 1%, has undoubtedly high growth potential, but it lags the top providers in terms of marketing and promotion.

Of course, these charts do not take into account the movie industry, which projects the U.S. to worldwide stardom despite local content rules in locally-subsidized output in many countries. But, they shed light on a possible evolution of the industry status quo, which the producers from Turkey but also from India, South Korea, Israel are fighting to modify. Russia is also dedicating efforts towards gaining market share, but its players appear less prone to change the way they run their companies in order to achieve success on this endeavor.

How did this Turkish TV expansion happen? And, Why? In a series of articles, we’ll try to apply CSI Gil Grissom’s forensic theories to some apparently unrelated TV business developments; indeed, Grissom did not believe in “coincidence”. The first issue to address is the appearance of private television in Turkey, in the Nineties, after many years of monopoly in the hands of State-Controlled network TRT. The new channels found the need to produce in-house drama, among other genres, but until 2010 they didn’t find a window of opportunity to export its inventory because a number of Latin American broadcasting powerhouses --Brazilian Globo and Mexican Televisa among them, but the list is much longer-- were occupying coveted time slots at the Western, Central and East European screens, with expansion plans to Asia and Africa. China was considered (and still remains) a long-term yet desirable prospect. The U.S. Hispanic market, with Univision and Telemundo as major players, was served with long term contracts signed by Univision with Televisa (still running) and Cisneros Media (no longer valid), while Telemundo (not yet guided by NBCUniversal at that time) sought product from various sources.

From 2010 on, a sort of identity crisis invaded the Latin American broadcasters, due in part to the expansion of pay television --both cable and satellite-- but also to the feeling that its traditional dramatic situations, rewritten several times, were feeling tired. The growth at cable networks such as Fox, Disney, Turner and Discovery, among sothers, syphoned out chunks of audience, while the wide availability of sports programming delivered via satellite from Europe and other parts of the world started attracting advertising revenue. Advertisers took notice that telenovelas that in the past had reached in excess of twenty and maybe thirty ratings points, where sliding to the fifteen-something terrain. Adding insult to injury, Google and Facebook, fueled by the growing availability of smartphones and messaging, were noticed to be snatching teen eyeballs.

At this point, the Turkish TV business saw a window of opportunity: while Latin Americans relented on their marketing efforts due to uncertainty over its content and formats, a group of Turkish producers and distributors started individual but not isolated efforts to gain screen time in various content-purchasing nations, at the expense of the telenovela indecision. When the Latin Americans reacted with some ideas to be discussed later, Turkish drama had already gained a beachhead that would prove to be difficult to regain.

What allowed the Turkish content distributors to gain advantage over other nations, such and India and South Korea (that noticed the same market gap), was that they have been always willing to adapt their manners and strategies to each ongoing situation. This, at a time when the rest of the International producers --a wide range of companies covering from Hollywood to Europe and the leading Latin American broadcasters-- remained so assured about the value of their existing content inventory that they did not feel the need to change their corporate culture. To complicate even more the situation, a bit later Netflix emerged to shock the entire industry. ‘Not a coincidence’, Gil Grissom would have argued.

Coming soon:
Second Part - The Three Fundaments of the Turkish drive towards success.

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