Kara Sevda (Endless Love)’s stunning win at the International Emmys earlier this week confirmed the phenomenal rise of popular Turkish drama worldwide. Kara Sevda became the first Turkish TV series to win an International Emmy – the TV equivalent of the Oscars – when it was awarded Best Telenovela in New York. The series has been broadcast in over 60 countries.
The show is part of an important and growing business sector for Turkey, which is not only helping to spread Turkish culture abroad, but also generating millions for the economy. Currently, the export of Turkish TV programmes is estimated to be worth over $350 million annually, with sales to over 100 countries. Its sales volume and reach makes Turkey the second highest selling exporter for television content in the world.
Millions of viewers around the world connect with Turkish soaps and dramas on at least a weekly basis. According to a report in Variety last month, having conquered the Middle East and Latin America, these programmes are now in demand across new territories in Central and Eastern Europe, South Africa and Asia.
Turkey is the second highest selling exporter for television content in the world
Izzet Pinto, CEO of TV sales company Global Agency, which has been pivotal in driving the sales of Turkish dramas around the world, told Variety: “It’s been a good year. Out of 70 different dramas produced in a year, only 10 are being exported. And only four or five of those become international hits.”
Turkey has been able to maintain this level of consistency for many years now. Its current big domestic hit series is Diriliş Ertuğrul, a historical drama set in the 13th Century that retells the life of a Turkish warrior named Ertuğrul whose son Osman goes on to establish the Ottoman Empire. The prime time show, which recently started its fourth season, is broadcast on state-run channel TRT and is said to be the most expensive ever made in Turkey. It’s also watched by audiences in the Gulf and South America.
Last year’s big international hit for Turkey was Paramparça (Broken Pieces), a drama series produced by Endemol Shine Turkey starring Erkan Petekkaya. According to Variety, it became “the most exported Turkish drama of 2016, sold by Global Agency to 81 countries”.
Endemol Shine is described as a “global powerhouse in production”, behind many international hit TV programmes such as Masterchef, Big Brother and Humans. The Dutch-origin company is one of several foreign production companies now investing in Turkish dramas.
The next big challenge and opportunity for Turkish dramas is to penetrate English-speaking territories, and companies such as Fox Networks are already lined up to help realise this. Prentiss Fraser, exec VP and managing director at Fox Networks Group Content Distribution told Variety they will be dubbing Turkish dramas into English in their Los Angeles studios in 2018.