Kanal D International’s Ekin Koyuncu

Ekin Koyuncu, executive director at Kanal D International, talks to World Screen about the new slate of rom-coms, the continued success of Hekimoğlu and more.

While Turkish dramas continue to maintain their strong standing on the global stage, romantic comedies have been proving popular with audiences both at home and abroad. Kanal D International has a bevy of rom-coms to offer the marketplace, alongside solid performers such as the House remake Hekimoğlu and a slew of dramas rich with all the elements that have long made series from Turkey such a success. Ekin Koyuncu, who took on the role of executive director at Kanal D International in May, talks to World Screen about serving the current needs of buyers and appetites of audiences.

WS: What have been your initial priorities and focus since taking on the role of executive director of Kanal D International earlier this year?
KOYUNCU: I have been with Kanal D International for almost four years now; knowing the organization, its culture and the team has been a great help during my adaptation period. My initial focus is to further prospective accounts and clients in existing regions, determining strategic priorities and identifying potential improvements in the organizational structure. As well as giving importance to our pre-sales strategies, we are focusing on expanding our reach and simultaneously improving our website and marketing outreach.

WS: How have Turkish drama series evolved to meet the tastes of viewers?
KOYUNCU: The representation of family, scenes of intimacy, the visual richness of Turkey, the traditional cultural expressions, production quality and diversified storylines are some of the characteristic elements that make Turkish series so popular. Our series offer diversified aspects of modernity and conservatism.

With all of these aspects, international sales and global viewership is continuing to grow. Turkey is the second country after the U.S. in worldwide TV distribution, followed by the U.K., France and Germany, reaching millions of households globally. The Turkish market is very competitive; the audience is tough and has many options to choose from. Producers and broadcasters need to deliver the best production quality with the most authentic stories, so I believe this equation sets the bar higher for the next title in line.

WS: Is it still more traditional stories that are most popular, or are there new elements making their mark?
KOYUNCU: While our classics are still in demand, with the pandemic, we are experiencing a shift toward romantic comedies as well. Depending on the region, the call for the genre differs. If the storyline is strong and the series is giving you the right emotions with the right cast, that story is finding the right audience. I recently read an article that was saying that Turkish drama has now established itself as a genre of its own, starting from the mid-1990s and shaping in the 2000s, proposing the word “dizi” (namely “series” in Turkish) as the name of the new genre. I totally agree with this.

WS: Tell us about the success and momentum behind Hekimoğlu.
KOYUNCU: With its premiere in 2019, Hekimoğlu has become one of the top-rated dramas among the AB group, even among original House fans. The performances of the stars Timuçin Esen, Okan Yalabık and Ebru Özkan and the young doctors of “Team Hekimoğlu” Kaan Yıldırım, Damla Çolbay and Aytaç Şaşmaz have received a standing ovation from the audience on social media platforms.

Called the best remake in Turkish TV history by Turkish audiences, Hekimoğlu has satisfied the audience’s need for an alternative drama with its witty dialogue and startling incidents. The team has successfully mixed and matched the witty character of Hekimoğlu with feelings such as love, friendship, companionship, sacrifice, work discipline and humanity.

WS: Romantic comedies are forming a strong part of the Kanal D International catalog. What is driving the popularity of this type of series?
KOYUNCU: With the pandemic, we all [had] a rough year; being stuck in our homes and cut off from our friends and families made us lose the taste sensation toward life. While strong dramas are still in demand, what I see and experience from our recent sales is that people are shifting toward more optimistic, feel-good stories. Romantic comedies became the breakpoint to the stress we are all experiencing in our daily lives. I can definitely say that the demand for romantic comedies increased in the past year.

One of my favorite romantic comedies, Love Trap, which reached millions of people and peaked in ratings during 2019, continues to have a high international reach. We are very happy with the international performance of the title. Secondly, one of our recent titles, Romance Next Door, attracted great interest this year. The lead roles are [played by] young and successful names that you might be familiar with: Furkan Andıç, Nilay Deniz and Yiğit Kirazcı. It’s a very colorful, adventurous story with remarkable evolutions in characters’ storylines.

In 2021, we added two more successful rom-coms to our catalog. The first one is Recipe of Love. It is not a standard rom-com, but also [has] an essence of drama in it. The premiere was on June 7 in prime time, with a globally known actor, Kadir Doğulu, accompanied by the talented and beautiful Serra Arıtürk, a name that we will be hearing a lot in the near future. These two names are accompanied by other talented and accomplished Turkish actors and actresses. This series is full of passion and love while seeking an answer to one question: Is there a recipe for love? With its impressive storyline and radiant cast, it has already started its international journey with Israel. The second one is Twist of Fate, produced by ARC Film, producer of KDI’s blockbusting romantic comedy Love Trap. Starring Aytaç Şaşmaz (Hekimoğlu), Cemre Baysel, İdris Nebi Taşkan (Ruthless City), Aslı Sümen, Hande Subaşı and Altan Erkekli, it has been the top-rated drama for two weeks in a row. In addition to its [success in] the local rankings, Twist of Fate reaches 7 million views per episode on YouTube, which has created a massive fan base only in its first month.

All of them have the essence of the old Turkish movies; they are friendly, romantic and naïve, which I believe are the feelings that are mostly needed by people all around the world for the last two years.

WS: What are you hearing from buyers about their needs at present, and how is Kanal D International prepared to meet these needs?
KOYUNCU: This past year has been a huge challenge for everyone, but as a team, we were able to see the opportunities quickly and determine our priorities. At the beginning of the pandemic, people could not foresee many aspects; this applies especially to traditional broadcasters. Productions and daily formats were paused, and this led broadcasters to lose their advertising revenues and seek changes in plans. This quickly reflected in their yearly budgets on acquisitions and related expenses such as marketing and localization.

In these circumstances, while keeping the expenses under control and maintaining the slots running with good performance, many territories went after strong reruns. We have been underlining the strength of our all-time favorites such as Forbidden Love, Fatmagül and Time Goes By for many years. Once again, the strength of our library has provided us a much wider playground.