Turkish Love Story

Over the last ten years, Turkish dramas have made a lasting impact in Latin America, captivating local audiences and securing positions across multiple platforms.

TV Latina is gearing up to host the inaugural Turkish TV Festival, taking place May 7 to 9. The Spanish- and English-language online event features stars such as Özge Özpirinçci and Melih Özkaya alongside executives from OGM Pictures, Madd Entertainment, Inter Medya, Kanal D International, Eccho Rights, atv, Global Agency, MISTCO, Calinos Entertainment and MediaHub. You can register for this free event here.

For years, telenovelas hailing from Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil monopolized prime-time slots on free-TV channels in Latin America. Despite their widespread acclaim, these shows faced competition from Turkish productions, which unexpectedly arrived in the region a decade ago.

Initially dismissed as a fleeting trend, Turkish dramas have defied predictions and established themselves in Latin American entertainment. Despite the enduring global success of traditional Latin American telenovelas, Turkish shows have successfully carved out their own space, demonstrating staying power and continued popularity after a decade.

In 2014, Global Agency inked a deal with Mega in Chile to broadcast 1001 Nights (Las mil y una noches). This Turkish drama, starring Bergüzar Korel and Halit Ergenç, marked the beginning of a wave of Turkish titles flooding into the region, reshaping programming schedules and viewers’ preferences.

Leading the charge was Iván Sánchez, the director of sales for Latin America at Global Agency. Sánchez spearheaded the introduction of Turkish dramas to Latin America through 1001 Nights. Reflecting on their journey, Sánchez notes, “Over the past decade, we’ve dubbed nearly 30 titles for the territory. Notable productions like 1001 NightsMagnificent Century and Mother made an impact. Yet, we’ve also seen success with others such as A Part of MeBroken PiecesEvermore and Daydreamer, spanning various genres and captivating a wide audience.”

Throughout the past decade, Sánchez notes that the market has exhibited remarkable stability, allowing for diversification across platforms and time slots to reach a wider audience. He explains, “We’ve been able to expand our reach, starting from free TV and later branching out to cable channels and SVOD platforms.”

Beatriz Cea Okan, VP and head of sales and acquisitions at Inter Medya, recounts a five-year journey to penetrate the Latin American market. “Initially, distributors were cautious about testing content. However, we maintained our stance that channels should directly request titles from us, rather than involving a distributor in between,” she explains. Chile became the first country where Inter Medya introduced its productions, eventually expanding to encompass all countries in the region.

Cea Okan elaborates on Inter Medya’s approach: “It started with one drama purchase, then two, leading to the opening of time slots, and eventually, further expansions. Presently, numerous channels in Latin America dedicate multiple time slots per day to Turkish content.”

According to Cea Okan, the cornerstones of a successful Turkish drama are the compelling stories and talented actors. “To this day, classic drama remains the most requested by customers, despite its dwindling production in Turkey,” she highlights. “This led us to pioneer a new model of co-production, focusing on creating narratives that embody classic drama elements, which resonate strongly in Latin America.”

She highlights Inter Medya’s standout titles, such as Endless LoveBitter Lands and Mrs. Fazilet and Her Daughters.

Last year, Inter Medya made headlines with the extension of its co-production partnership with Telemundo. This agreement encompassed the daily drama Hicran, marking the debut co-production under this multiyear deal. Additionally, Inter Medya entered another co-production venture with Caracol Televisión for the drama series Leylifer, produced by Alim Yapım. Inter Medya solidified yet another co-production agreement with Mega Global Entertainment from Chile and Mas Ros Media to develop an innovative program offering.

Sibel Levendoğlu, sales manager for Latin America and North America at Kanal D International, points out that the success of Turkish dramas has sparked heightened competition within their home country. This surge in competition has been accompanied by an escalation in production standards, reflecting a commitment to delivering high-quality content that can captivate both domestic and international audiences.

One of the company’s notable accomplishments, alongside the extensive distribution of its titles, has been the establishment of the Kanal D Drama channel, which serves as a platform for showcasing all the company’s productions across Latin America, Europe and the U.S. Hispanic market.

“The channel is a testament to the immense popularity of our content; it stands as one of our most significant successes,” she says. “Moreover, we maintain licensing agreements for the same content on free-TV channels across the continent. Over the past three or four years, we’ve also forged partnerships with various platforms, which are equally crucial to our distribution strategy.”

Levendoğlu highlights several of Kanal D International’s top-performing productions, including FatmagülForbidden Love and Wounded Love.

Müge Akar, head of sales at atv, recalls the company’s initial foray into the Latin American market through the sale of the drama Sila to Mega in Chile. “It was truly extraordinary for all of us in Turkey, as we had grown up watching Latin American telenovelas,” she reflects. “Securing a sale in that territory was exhilarating. The introduction of Turkish dramas in Chile felt like lighting a massive fire that quickly spread across the entire continent in a domino effect.”

In the quest to establish a foothold in the region, Akar recalls encountering a significant challenge stemming from Turkey’s distinct production system. “The Turkish production process operates quite differently—it’s not very systematic or planned; it’s often done on the fly,” she explains. “This posed a challenge because for markets like Latin America, where dubbed content is essential, we had to wait until a certain number of episodes were produced before we could sell them. This meant waiting for production to complete, then dubbing the episodes and finally marketing them. It’s a lengthier process compared to other regions, but ultimately, it proved effective.”

According to Akar, titles such as SilaHercaiOrphan Flowers and Lifeline stand out as some of atv’s notable successes.

Duda Rodrigues, sales manager for Latin America at Calinos Entertainment, reveals that the company’s initial venture into the Latin American market started with the sale of The Girl Named Feriha, a title acquired by Mega in Chile and broadcast as El secreto de Feriha. She highlights the remarkable success of this title, noting that its popularity was so enduring that a few years later, they secured another sale of the production in the same country, this time to Chilevisión.

“After the success of El secreto de Feriha, we have introduced several significant titles,” reveals Rodrigues. “For instance, Woman, adapted from a Korean format with 12 episodes, underwent a Turkish adaptation spanning three seasons. Another notable title is Our Story, a local version of the U.K. series Shameless, which has garnered two seasons. Additionally, Forbidden Fruit has captured audiences with six seasons and 499 episodes. Currently, we are excited to offer the scripted format of La chica que limpia or The Cleaning Lady, with its Turkish version titled Farah.”

According to Barbora Suster, head of Latin America and Iberia at Eccho Rights, Turkish content has evolved into a cornerstone for many free-TV channels. “Over the years, buyers, channels and audiences have gained a deep understanding of how this content operates,” she explains. “They’ve learned which titles resonate the most and that Turkish drama encompasses various genres, each with its own level of success. Furthermore, the time slots dedicated to Turkish dramas on most free-TV channels have become well-established.”

Suster says that their main clients are free-TV channels, primarily due to the adaptability of Turkish content, allowing for daily scheduling. However, she notes a growing interest from buyers of pay-TV channels who have recognized the appeal of these extended dramas. “They’ve discovered that these lengthy narratives, which were previously considered impractical, have found a place in the offerings of digital platforms,” she adds.

Among the highlights for Eccho Rights in Latin America, she mentions EzelElif and Golden Boy.

Özlem Özsümbül, head of sales at Madd Entertainment, underscores the significant contribution of Latin America to the revenue generated by Turkish content over the past decade. “Half of the revenue from Turkish content comes from Latin America, which is incredibly significant,” she emphasizes. “The arrival of Turkish titles has brought a positive impact to the entire region. From major global players to smaller countries, most television stations now broadcast Turkish content. We are very pleased with the reception of Turkish content in Latin America.”

She remarks on the strong partnership Madd Entertainment has cultivated with free-TV channels, highlighting their long-standing collaboration. Despite also working with global players like HBO Max through volume agreements, Özsümbül emphasizes the prevalence of free-TV partnerships. “In Turkey, our primary focus is producing content for free-TV,” she explains. “We do not specifically tailor projects for the digital space. Our productions are intended for free-TV audiences, catering to families and suitable for both daytime and prime-time slots. We are adding digital platforms because together they have great potential.”

Madd Entertainment was established through the collaboration of its founding companies and producers, Ay Yapım and Medyapım. “Since that time, every year we have had at least one major success, which we call a unicorn,” she says. “My Little Girl was one of them. It is joined by A Miracle (Doctor Milagro), A Woman ScornedLove is in the Air and Flames of Fate. Every year, we are adding at least one major success for television channels worldwide.”

During the journey of Turkish productions in conquering Latin America, María Espino, sales manager for Latin America and Iberia at MISTCO, mentions the company’s initial foray into the region with historical dramas. She cites Resurrection Ertugrul as a prime example. Set in the 13th century, the series follows the heroic journey of Ertugrul, the father of Osman, the founder of the Ottoman Empire. Ertugrul navigates challenges as he strives to secure a home for his tribe and the woman he loves. The show captivates audiences with its epic narrative and historical intrigue.

“Since then, MISTCO has undergone several transformations, expanding our offerings to include both dramas and romantic comedies,” she explains. She emphasizes that despite their business diversifying to encompass pay TV and various digital platforms, their primary clientele continues to be free-TV channels.

Among the notable titles highlighted over the years, Espino mentions Hold My Hand, which “was the best-selling drama for MISTCO in 2019, as well as subsequent successes such as Melek: A Mother’s Struggle and The Innocents.”

Ekin Koyuncu, who serves as the director of global distribution and partnerships at OGM Universe, became a part of the OGM Pictures family in 2022. From this platform, they spearheaded the launch of OGM Universe, a distribution company focused on bringing content to audiences worldwide.

“Since the arrival of Turkish content in Latin America, we’ve witnessed continuous growth, which fills us with pride,” Koyuncu remarks. “Nowadays, we observe an increasing number of titles being produced each year, showcasing a wide diversity of content. Moreover, Turkish dramas are not only prevalent on linear television but also gaining prominence on major platforms in Latin America and the U.S. Hispanic market. This trend indicates a growing demand for Turkish dramas, and their inclusion across different media platforms brings us joy.”

Like other executives, Koyuncu acknowledges that in Turkey, they grew up watching Latin American telenovelas from countries like Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. Consequently, she views it as a significant achievement to compete with these established productions in their own territory, considering the rich storytelling and high production quality of Latin American telenovelas.

“Replacing telenovelas in their daytime and prime-time slots demonstrates that audiences truly appreciate the way we develop stories, craft our productions and maintain high quality,” Koyuncu remarks. “Currently, we are competing with local productions from Argentina, Colombia and Brazil. However, with the rise of Latin American dramas, competition is intensifying, and we must remain competitive while maintaining our position in the territory.”

Koyuncu highlights titles such as Miracle of LoveStickmanBroken Destiny and Lost in Love.

Despite initial predictions, Turkish dramas have achieved lasting success even in territories like Brazil, known for its history of producing original productions, and the U.S. Hispanic market.

“Despite the geographical proximity with Brazil, similar to that of Latin America, the process of introducing Turkish content has been different,” remarks Sánchez at Global Agency. “In 2015, we brought 1001 Nights to Brazil, partnering with Bandeirantes. However, since then, progress has been slower. Presently, we are striving to collaborate with new channels in the Brazilian market.”

He further explains that they have discovered an alternative avenue through SVOD platforms, such as Globoplay, where Mother became one of the top three most-watched contents on the platform.

“For the U.S. Hispanic market, we have closed some deals with Univision and Telemundo, particularly for finished products,” adds Sánchez. “In 2013, Telemundo premiered the first adaptation of a Turkish drama in Latin America with Pasión prohibida. Currently, most of the adaptations we are involved in are through Televisa, which adapts them for Mexico and simultaneously airs them in the U.S. on Univision.”

Cea Okan at Inter Medya reveals that the company has established a presence in Brazil through Globoplay and in the U.S. Hispanic market through partnerships with TelevisaUnivision and Telemundo. Additionally, they have expanded their reach through Pasiones, owned by Hemisphere Media Group.

At the same time, the company is actively developing what they’ve dubbed the ‘new generation’ of Turkish series. “These are faster-paced series tailored for streaming platforms,” she says. “In fact, we have already begun selling these series to Globoplay in Brazil. They have been met with great success because buyers are interested in acquiring both classic content and this ‘new generation,’ which is shorter and more daring in its storytelling.”

Cea Okan says that free TV continues to acquire long novelas with 120 episodes, “but these new miniseries can also work very well on weekends or once a week.”

There is no denying that the primary clients of Turkish distributors in Latin America and the U.S. Hispanic market have traditionally been free-TV channels. However, in recent years, there has been a noticeable expansion of business to include paid channels and online platforms and services.

“Our primary clients are free-TV channels, followed by pay-TV,” says Koyuncu. “Currently, we observe Turkish dramas gaining more presence on platforms. However, our primary focus in terms of distribution remains on free TV. FAST is a relatively new concept for us. We are exploring it, understanding it and learning about its potential in terms of budgets and revenue. While it may not be comparable to free-TV, pay-TV, SVOD or hybrid platforms at the moment, we anticipate it becoming valuable for monetization in the very near future.”

Espino at MISTCO notes that budgets in Latin America have faced reductions since last year. “Buyers are more selective in their acquisitions. I believe that in 2024 there will be an improvement, in addition to more slots. Many channels are expanding their blocks, which had been closed due to the pandemic, for Turkish content.”

Looking at this year, Akar from atv outlines their strategic goals: “We aim to uphold our position in Latin America, leveraging our presence in all countries of the region. Two new titles [were launched] in January. In addition, we seek to strengthen our position in Europe and explore partnerships with countries we haven’t collaborated with before, including Italy and Portugal.”

Rodrigues from Calinos Entertainment highlights their focus on acquiring new content with international appeal. “We are eager to add super successful scripted formats to our catalog in 2024,” she states. “We anticipate a very positive year in terms of local production in Turkey for international sales.”

“Our primary focus will be on our own productions,” says Koyuncu. “We aim to collaborate with strong partners in Latin America and the U.S. Hispanic market to co-produce and distribute our titles in these regions. Our goal is for our formats to resonate with audiences in these countries, across free-TV channels, pay TV and streaming services. Additionally, we aspire to showcase our production capabilities in the region through locally produced content.”