Ziyad Varol, ATV’s licensing and digital manager for acquisitions, sales and platforms, talks to TV Drama about the hit series Lifeline, the competitive Turkish drama landscape and the reputation the broadcaster has solidified over its 25 years in the market.
The story of Nefes, a child bride who escapes from her violent husband Vedat, plays out in the hit drama series Lifeline. The show has been a top performer for ATV in Turkey, a market where competition is increasingly high and it’s not always easy for dramas or broadcasters to stand out.
“Lifeline’s uniqueness comes from its story,” says Ziyad Varol, ATV’s licensing and digital manager for acquisitions, sales and platforms. “Every domestic-violence victim will find something they relate to, and Lifeline has become a [beacon of] hope for them.”
Outside of its home territory, Lifeline has seen “great sales success” in the international market, Varol says. “At MIPTV, Lifeline was the only Turkish drama selected for [The WIT’s] Fresh TV list, and with that great mark, it has sold to more than 30 countries so far. We are expecting to add around ten more territories before MIPCOM, and with Lifeline’s international debut, we believe the number of territories it will enter will be massive.”
Making noise in a market as competitive as Turkey is certainly no easy feat. “Compared to other countries, we have so many channels in Turkey; a show needs to be very successful to stand out,” Varol explains. “To accomplish this, slot and target audiences are important. Additionally, high-quality productions, local touches and true matching between characters and cast with great stories” can also help a program shine.
This competition has made drama producers and broadcasters in Turkey bring their A-game, which Varol says has had a positive impact on ATV. “We became the ratings leader almost every month during the last two years,” he explains.
ATV was one of the first private channels in Turkey, and its high-quality drama series have been a key pillar of building its profile. “When Turkish series became [big] in the ’90s, ATV aired all of the popular series,” says Varol. “Even today, Ivy Mansion, An Istanbul Fairytale and Aliye are still hits. Today’s popular actors and actresses shined with these series.”
ATV’s drama lineup and scheduling strategy have evolved over time. Initially, series were about 30 to 40 minutes, and the channel aired them once or twice a week. Now, shows are running about two hours, and there’s a new drama series each day on prime time. (In Turkey, drama series don’t run from Monday to Friday; instead, they air once a week.)
Over the last 25 years, ATV’s sales catalog has also improved. “ATV became a trademark,” Varol says. “ATV’s sister channel, A2, started broadcasting [in 2016], and our series are being watched there even today. ATV has aired high-quality productions from the beginning, it continued to broadcast premium series without sacrificing quality and now it’s the leading channel in Turkey as it was in the past.”
There are several factors contributing to this ratings leadership. “We have a powerful daytime slot,” featuring well-known presenters such as Esra Erol and Müge Anlı. “We lead in ratings with total audience on Tuesdays with Grand Family and on Wednesdays with Lifeline. Love and Hate is an ongoing successful production. Orphan Flowers was really strong on Mondays last year. All of ATV’s series are long-running, and its broadcasting policy is to reflect the experiences of society. That’s why ATV is being watched so widely.”
ATV’s family-oriented approach “gives the audience a true feeling of trust, and that’s why we are able to gather all kinds of viewers from all around Turkey,” says Varol.
The ATV team is gearing up for MIPCOM at present, hoping to link up with some new buyers from Europe for its Turkish fare. “We plan to meet with buyers from the Balkans, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia,” Varol tells TV Drama. “We will promote last year’s ratings record holder Lifeline and its fresh new season. We will carry out marketing for Don’t Leave Me, Orphan Flowers and Love and Hate. We will be thrilled to present our new lineup for the 2018-19 season, and we hope to bring new projects to the market and to close more deals on Lifeline, Love and Hate and Orphan Flowers. We will also be celebrating our 25th anniversary with our valuable partners with special events.”