Turkish Dramas in LatAm

In the upcoming year, Turkish dramas will mark a significant milestone of ten years in Latin America. The breakthrough came in 2014 with the launch of 1001 Nights (Las mil y una noches) on Mega in Chile, which sparked a ratings revolution and reshaped daily schedules for local viewers. Iván Sánchez, sales director for Latin America at Global Agency, played a pivotal role in this achievement, skillfully negotiating the acquisition of the series with Mega to overcome language barriers associated with Turkish dramas. Despite the passage of nearly a decade since that initial success, Turkish dramas have not only sustained their upward trajectory but also continued to expand and solidify their presence across numerous networks in the LatAm region.

“Since 2014, Global Agency has set the standard for top-quality Turkish content in the region,” says Sánchez. “We strive to foster strong collaborations with our clients, aiming to develop synergies and provide them with excellent products that cater to their specific time slots and requirements.”

He emphasizes that the company’s catalog now includes new productions featuring universal stories that have garnered significant interest. With these developments, there are high expectations for continued success.

Turkish distributors have not only maintained popularity among programmers and audiences over the years but have also focused on implementing strategies to facilitate further expansion.

“Over the years, we have cultivated robust business relationships in Latin America,” says Beatriz Cea Okan, Inter Medya’s VP and head of sales and acquisitions. “The advantage of working with our partners, who are not only colleagues but also friends, cannot be overstated. We maintain regular communication and hold frequent meetings throughout the year, implementing an intensive marketing strategy tailored to the region.”

She adds, “We also offer comprehensive support to all our business partners throughout the broadcasting of our content in the region. We cater to their specific requests and needs, aiding during broadcast periods.”

Sibel Levendoğlu, sales manager for Latin America and North America at Kanal D International, is looking to expand the company’s reach and penetration in this market. She says, “One of the most effective approaches we take is prioritizing the markets we aim to serve consistently. These markets facilitate our connection with companies, channels and buyers that hold mutual interest. Additionally, conducting visits with these companies proves to be a highly effective means of outreach.”

Emre Görentaş, head of sales for the Americas and MENA at atv, highlights the importance of bringing stories that resonate with Latin American audiences. He explains, “Our primary focus is to offer compelling narratives that appeal to Latin American viewers. If the story is strong, the content’s reach will naturally expand. For instance, Hercai continues to garner significant attention and is being introduced in new countries like Bolivia.”

Duda Rodrigues, sales manager for Latin America at Calinos Entertainment, takes a strategy of maintaining close relationships with clients: “Our approach involves fostering strong connections with our clients and understanding which TV channel would be the best fit for our new content. Ultimately, the success of our clients translates into our success as well.”

Ekin Koyuncu, global distribution and partnership director at OGM UNIVERSE, says the company has been closely monitoring the consumption trend of non-Latin American telenovelas, particularly those from Turkey, in recent years. “We have leveraged this trend to create new opportunities for script exchanges and secure placements for our series across various platforms. This strategy has allowed us to capitalize on popular distribution channels and expand our audience reach. While we continue to prioritize our existing relationships with broadcasters, we are also actively exploring partnerships with streaming platforms to further expand and engage our viewership.”

She says that the company provides a diverse range of content looking to “break new ground in traditional Turkish series. We achieve this by delving into the intricacies of everyday life and human behavior, all while delivering a visually stunning cinematic experience and robust scriptwriting.”

Koyuncu mentions the series Stickman, which takes a fresh and original approach to the genre, and Miracle of Love, which explores a unique fantasy-infused love triangle involving a 130-year-old man.

In response to the growing dominance of Turkish distributors and their popular dramas in Latin America, both free- and pay-TV channels, as well as streaming services, are facing the challenge of providing exceptional titles to their diverse audience base. As a result, these distributors have witnessed a parallel evolution in their business strategies, adapting to the changing landscape to meet the demands of their viewers and subscribers.

Cea Okan at Inter Medya explains the shifting distribution landscape of Turkish titles. “Historically, free-to-air channels have served as the primary platform for Turkish dramas. These dramas were initially aired on free-to-air channels and later made available for streaming. However, the emergence of OTT platforms and paid TV channels has brought about a significant change in the distribution of Turkish dramas.”

She comments that the entry of OTT platforms into the market has brought about a new revenue stream for production and distribution companies, as they have begun acquiring Turkish dramas. Pay-TV channels have also ventured into the market, and some are exclusively broadcasting Turkish dramas.

Cea Okan explains that “the Turkish drama market is undergoing significant evolution, presenting growth opportunities in both OTT platforms and pay TV. These channels have emerged as new clients, enabling us to expand our turnover rapidly. We maintain continuous communication with numerous global and local digital platforms that are constantly entering the market. However, it’s important to note that free-TV channels still play a major role in the distribution of Turkish dramas.”

Sánchez at Global Agency shares a similar view as Cea Okan, stating, “Undoubtedly, OTT and pay-TV platforms provide the most significant growth opportunities for us. As the industry undergoes transformation, Global Agency has been steadily adapting. While broadcast television remains our main client, we acknowledge the changing landscape and have established agreements with various platforms. We embrace these changes rather than resist them.”

Levendoğlu at Kanal D International concurs with the significance of free-to-air TV as the primary gateway for Turkish dramas in Latin America. She says, “Free-to-air TV continues to be the most crucial platform, but we are also witnessing the emergence of OTT and pay-TV platforms as significant buyers. This expansion provides us with a growing number of platforms where we can license our content.”

Görentaş at atv clarifies that the agreements regarding rights and distribution windows are contingent upon the specific audience and country. As an example, he notes that in Latin America, most programmers acquire licenses for Turkish dramas for free-to-air channels.

However, he explains, “In contrast, we observe different strategies in the U.S. Hispanic market, where OTT rights are prioritized over broadcast TV. With the proliferation of platforms and advancements in technology, it is possible that free-TV rights may become a secondary distribution window in the future.”

With the ever-evolving landscape of the television industry and its distribution windows, Rodrigues from Calinos Entertainment emphasizes that the company’s primary client remains broadcast. However, she concurs with other distribution executives in acknowledging the rapid proliferation of OTT platforms.

“The emergence of new platforms is seen as an opportunity rather than a threat,” she says. “This is particularly true as both free-to-air and pay-TV channels are incorporating digital extensions to broaden the reach of their content.”

The business opportunities for distributors extend beyond Latin America. Spain, for instance, has become a significant territory, although it took several years for local broadcasters to embrace Turkish dramas in their programming. Eventually, they surrendered to their allure, joining the rest of the world in their enthusiasm for the genre.

The U.S. Hispanic market has emerged as a significant territory in the expansion of Turkish dramas. Despite its demographic ties to Latin America, the U.S. Hispanic market also serves as a gateway to potential Anglo clients who are already acquainted with the Turkish drama phenomenon.

“By licensing our content on various platforms and in different countries in Latin America, we are presented with a broader range of opportunities,” says Koyuncu from OGM UNIVERSE. “In the U.S., our primary focus is on pay-TV and [digital] platforms. With Latinos and Hispanics comprising 19 percent of the U.S. population and a recent Nielsen study underscoring their influence on popular shows on streaming platforms, they are a crucial audience for us. We are dedicated to expanding our presence across all Spanish-language streaming services, ranging from major platforms to smaller ones. Our goal is to maximize our appeal to these viewers, grow our audience base in the U.S., and explore avenues to reach the Anglo audience.”

Sánchez explains that Global Agency’s business approach in the U.S. Hispanic market differs from that in Latin America. He notes, “Each market has its own unique characteristics, but two notable aspects stand out. Firstly, Turkish dramas arrived later in the region compared to Latin America. Secondly, there are fewer distribution windows available considering the market’s size. Despite these factors, the audience was receptive, and the response has been exceptional. Certain titles, such as Mother, became immediate hits.”

Görentaş at atv acknowledges the challenges posed by the U.S. Hispanic market, primarily because TelevisaUnivision and Telemundo are the main acquirers of Turkish content in this market.

“Due to the limited broadcast block options, promoting content and persuading buyers is more challenging,” he comments. “However, atv has successfully licensed content in the U.S. Hispanic market, where it consistently performs well, leading to a more positive reception from buyers toward atv’s content.”

Apart from the well-established and widely distributed finished productions that have reached global audiences, Turkish formats have also successfully found their place in various territories.

Cea Okan at Inter Medya highlights, “Our content has garnered a dedicated fanbase primarily because our stories resonate with a diverse range of viewers and are incredibly captivating. In Latin America, there is a strong interest in bringing these stories to their own countries through collaboration with talented local actors, writers and acclaimed directors. When it comes to the market for local adaptations of dramas in the region, it is crucial to consider the distinct cultural and linguistic characteristics of each Latin American country. Successful adaptations of Turkish dramas have been achieved in the region.”

Rodrigues at Calinos Entertainment shares a similar perspective, highlighting the mutual interest in both Turkish and international formats.

“Currently, our primary title, Farah, is an Argentinean format, showcasing the demand for international formats in Turkey,” she says. “This year, we are producing and distributing our own titles in various formats, engaging in co-productions with major production companies while also handling distribution. Latin America will have new versions of DilaThe Bitter Life and Starlust. Additionally, we recently sold the formats of No:309 to Romania and That’s My Life to Africa.”

Levendoğlu at Kanal D International affirms the growing interest in Turkish formats, expressing that their popularity will continue to increase over time, potentially achieving the same level of success as the finished products.

Based on Global Agency’s experience, Sánchez highlights Mexico’s proficiency in adapting Turkish dramas. Among the notable deals, he mentions the adaptation of Las mil y una noches “which resulted in the production of shows like Queen of the Night that Televisa launched in January 2021 under the title ¿Te acuerdas de mí?, as well as Televisa’s version of Evermore, yet to be released.”

Brazil has emerged as a significant territory in the expansion of Turkish distributors. The strategies to capture the Brazilian market are driven not only by the potential viewership of 215 million people but also by the vast number of original productions generated in the country.

“Brazil poses unique challenges in the Latin American market, primarily related to dubbing requirements and high competitiveness,” comments atv’s Görentaş. “However, in the past, we worked with free-to-air channels like Bandeirantes and [our productions] became big hits. Right now, we are proud to work with Globo and already licensed titles like Hercai.”

Inter Medya’s Cea Okan adds that Brazil is a growing market for the company, where there is great potential that has been reflected in sales and success.

“Last year, we licensed Naked and Leke to Globoplay, where both became some of the most-watched content on the platform,” she says. “Brazil is a country where competition is high, but Turkish content has achieved significant momentum. Our content is very suitable for the local audience.”

Calinos Entertainment’s Rodrigues also reaffirms Brazil’s position as a super-producer of telenovelas, which has made it a country that has been more resistant to the arrival of foreign series.

“With the phenomenon of Turkish telenovelas, they recently started acquiring content, especially for OTT, which is doing very well,” she comments. “It’s only a matter of time before we are present in all the windows [in the country].”

Throughout the remainder of the year, Turkish distributors have outlined plans to further expand the presence of their titles in the region. This expansion will involve partnering with free-to-air and pay-TV programmers, as well as streaming services, to reach a broader audience base.

“As is the case for every year, we aim to increase the success of our series worldwide,” explains Aysegul Tuzun, managing director at MISTCO. “Turkish producers continue to make the best dramas, which we will follow up and add to our catalog. In addition, we will be entering new territories and partnering with new broadcasters. We see our partners expanding not only in linear television but also in online platforms. Therefore, our goal for the end of 2023 and 2024 will be to maintain this momentum of closing more deals and accelerating the penetration of the best dramas in the world.”

Levendoğlu at Kanal D International points out that “the way of doing business is changing and that in the coming months or years there will be different working models that will go beyond the licensing model. Co-productions, co-financing and co-creations will take on a more important role, which will lead to high volume business growth.”

Global Agency’s Sánchez emphasizes that “our growth will be influenced by the positive reception of their new titles and the development of their other business lines, including fiction and entertainment formats. For the latter, the markets where we already have established collaborations, such as Brazil, Mexico or Peru, can serve as references for future endeavors.”

“Free TV has been the main part of our sales in Latin America since the beginning,” explains atv’s Görentaş. “However, the landscape is changing, and audiences are adopting different ways of watching dramas. We are witnessing the birth of FAST TV, the reshaping of the business or SVOD/AVOD platforms that push us to work with different revenue streams. Overall, the market is growing in terms of types of buyers, which gives us a lot of opportunities.”

Meanwhile, Inter Medya’s Cea Okan notes, “The Latin American market has been growing steadily over the past 10 years. Our productions, both new and old, are repeatedly sold to countries in this region. There is still a great appetite for Turkish content. However, these opportunities are subject to various factors, such as economic conditions and political stability, but today, these issues are emerging in different ways in each country, and demand continues to increase. We will continue to invest in marketing, strengthen our business relationships and find new customers in this region.”

“Calinos Entertainment’s mission is to spread joy to global audiences who enjoy drama by expanding the presence of Calinos’ dramas across platforms and countries with the newest content,” says Rodrigues. “We present phenomenal dramas globally for audiences around the world, such as Forbidden Fruit. We are expanding our catalog with content created by international producers, in addition to Turkish dramas. We started this with Polish films in 2022 and will have some new titles coming soon, in addition to the dramas Farah and Twisted Lives.”