Izzet Pinto, the founder and CEO of Global Agency, talks to World Screen about the unstoppable rise of Turkish dramas and what’s next for the company.
For Global Agency, growth is always top of mind. Pinto continues to deliver on his strategy of expanding the company’s catalog, increasing revenues and exploring new areas of business—creating plenty of buzz along the way.
WS: Turkish dramas have been hot for a while now. What must they do to maintain their momentum in this very competitive marketplace of international drama?
PINTO: For Turkish dramas, it all started ten years ago with the launch of 1001 Nights, which became a phenomenon in over 80 countries so far. The first market to spur the Turkish drama trend was Bulgaria, and that was back in 2008. The channel in Bulgaria increased its share by almost 300 percent. This led other countries to acquire Turkish dramas as well.
Initially, it was quite regional, in the Balkans. Then, it spread to the Middle East, Asia and CIS, and Latin America has caught up to the trend. Now, Turkish dramas are selling in over 100 countries. In almost all of these territories, Turkish dramas are being aired in prime time. If they were on in daytime, buyers would pay like they are fillers; in prime time, they pay major license fees. This has created a big economy for Turkey. It has also helped to export our culture and bring in tourism.
Global Agency was launched in 2006 with only formats and began selling Turkish dramas in 2008, which is when we started showing very big growth accordingly. Major success for Turkish series was achieved with the launch of Magnificent Century, which was over seven years ago. When we started selling Turkish dramas, most of the clients thought that this was going to be a short-term trend, lasting maybe three years. After three years of success, they gave it maybe two more years to continue working. It has been ten years!
The export of Turkish dramas used to be around $100,000 for the whole year for Turkey. Now, it has reached $350 million. We have seen growth of around 20 to 25 percent each year. So, it’s still in a growth phase and will be for a very long time. Turkish drama is a new genre in itself, a melodrama. Turkish dramas have soap opera-like stories but with big budgets, so they become major series.
WS: Are classic Turkish dramas still what sell best, or are there new elements being incorporated into the storylines?
PINTO: International buyers for Turkish dramas want classic stories, about love and family. They don’t want too much action; they want stories that are deep in emotions. Producers know that the classic topics work best, so they try to create stories based on basic themes and family issues.
WS: Are you seeing new markets opening up for this type of programming?
PINTO: The new markets for us are Western Europe and Africa. There were buyers in some territories that had originally not wanted to give Turkish dramas a chance, but once an acquisition manager tested it, it was a huge success for the channel. For any territory that hasn’t acquired Turkish dramas yet, it could be a game changer. In Spain, for example, a small channel acquired a Turkish drama a year ago and the result was five or six times bigger than they expected. Turkish dramas are gems; they have a magical element that works everywhere.
WS: With so many distributors getting into the game of selling Turkish dramas, how is Global Agency positioning itself as the go-to home for this content?
PINTO: We try to position ourselves as a provider of premium content. The clients know that we have the best of the best in Turkish dramas. Our goal isn’t about reaching big financial results; it’s about seeing our clients achieve massive results. If we have a drama that has been canceled, we are not even trying to push someone to buy it. We always focus on dramas that have seen major success in Turkey. It’s not about making volume deals; it’s about creating a good reputation for ourselves.
When you look at the top 10 most-successful Turkish dramas, we hold six of them: 1001 Nights, Magnificent Century, Broken Pieces, Love and Punishment, Mother and Dila. That’s a big percentage! This makes producers feel comfortable giving us their shows.
WS: What new dramas are you launching at MIPCOM?
PINTO: For this MIPCOM, we have by far our best lineup ever in terms of Turkish dramas. We’ll be bringing eight big dramas; it’s a big number! Meryem, which is from the producers of 1001 Nights, is based on a great love story. Daydreamer was the most-watched summer series in Turkey; it’s so successful that it’s continuing in the winter. It looks like that series will be running for a very long time; it has massive ratings. Finding Hope features the lead actor from Never Let Go. We also have Breathless, which is also from the producer of 1001 Nights and was one of the most-watched series of the summer. We are working on some other major dramas as well.
From the producers of Magnificent Century, Gulperi is a brand-new drama that touches on the plight shared by many women living in different geographies. Gulperi is the story of a woman who has been treated unjustly all her life just because she is a woman and whose family has been destroyed. Faced with the danger of losing her children after the unexpected death of her husband, Gulperi is ready to fight for them until her last breath even though they may not be so willing to be with her. This drama argues that a mother is only a mother when her children are by her side. While trying to imbue her children with love again, Gulperi will also remember what it feels like to really love someone as she reunites with a man from her past.
From the same producer of 1001 Nights and Love and Punishment, Restless Wind is another brand-new drama. It tells the story of people who have bit the star dust and pay the highest prices for fame, even if it leads to their demise. Drama builds a bridge between past and present time, and the audience is able to travel out from the present to the ’70 and ’80s. Young Melike Candan, today’s Melike Candan and Gokce Yucel are the protagonists of this sad story. They all wished to be stars once, and Melike already paid the highest prices in order to climb the ladder of fame. Melike tries to give Gokce her wise guidance in order to not make the same mistakes.
WS: Are you also looking to diversify the drama slate beyond titles from Turkey?
PINTO: In the last few years, we have been looking at different genres. We acquired dramas from Russia, Portugal, Spain and Ukraine. We do want to diversify, but still the major success comes from Turkish dramas.
WS: What’s the balance of the catalog and revenues between drama and formats?
PINTO: The catalog is fifty-fifty but the majority of the income is from dramas. We do know that if you find one very successful format, it can be a game changer. At MIPCOM we are launching seven formats. I hope that at least a couple of them will be a big success.
WS: Regarding formats, what seems to be working best in the marketplace nowadays?
PINTO: Daily stripped formats are still doing well. We have seen good success lately with Momsters, a cooking format with brides cooking and their mothers-in-law on the judging panel. We are launching Auction Queens from Hervé Hubert. This format is going to debut on M6 in France. It’s a major European production. We also have formats from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and Spain—so there’s a lot of diversity from international territories. I’m expecting big success from a Spanish format called Runaway Women. It’s a social experiment where we take 11 women and tell them they’re going to an event. At the event, we reveal that they are actually not going home. They are staying to have an amazing luxury week in a villa, to see if their husbands can survive without them. We are filming all the husbands to see how they are running the house and managing the children on their own. It’s a great reality show and has been a huge hit in Spain.
WS: Growth is always top of mind for you. What’s the next frontier?
PINTO: We are working on opening a new department for eSports. We have plans to move into the eSports business, and I expect major success there. Each year, we have between 20 and 25 percent growth, which is a serious rate. The expected growth rate for 2019 is around 25 percent as well. We are still in a growth phase. Even though it has been 12 years, things haven’t leveled off for us; we keep on growing!