One of Turkey’s most commendable distributors for high-quality programming that usually scores good rating with audience across territories is ITV-Inter Medya. The firm started out as a humble domestic film distributor, and has since built a reputation for itself in the region. Amongst its blockbuster titles are 20 Minutes, Filinta, Resurrection, Black Money Love and Black Rose, just to name a few. ITV has once sold 20 Dakika to more than 30 territories in less than four months. (The company’s drama slate makes up 85% in MENA countries accounting for 65% began to strike format sales and drama for the first time.) The distributor has also gone into production and co-production deals with a recent co-financing covenant.

ITV’s Managing Director, Ahmet Ziyalar said, “Conquering new markets is another issue. But now, Turkish dramas are winning the attention of Western and Northern Europe, the U.S., Russia and Latin America countries with straight licencing deals and formats sales. The west always had interest in high-profile contemporary crime dramas but they are beginning to see our strength in historical dramas today. Turkish dramas offer alternative storytelling to the U.S. around family and human issues, which is capable of challenging its dominance. Yes, the world is starting to see the high quality of Turkish drama and there’s a reason for that.

“Our content reflects modern Turkish culture, which is a blend of Eastern and Western culture, and viewers all around the world can find a part of themselves in the content. Love, passion, revenge and power are still the most popular topics but lately, the drama scene garnished with criminals or sci-fielements are increasing,” he added.

He agrees that competition between local players has helped to raise the bar in terms of production quality but says that it is the unique Turkish stories that are behind the huge rise in demand. With a catalogue of more than 5,000 hours of programming, the distributor also has comedy feature films in addition to dramas and telenovelas.

Ahmet also shared that ITV is now ready to start its own production of formats which he anticipates has much potential in this region. Besides drama which is their core business, the company will launch a new line-up of game shows and formats at MIPCOM in October. A new format team has been setup to take the company into a new dimension. They will conceptualise and produce the formats for Turkey and the global market.

Leading Actor of Black Money Love, Engin Akyurek won ‘The Best Actor’ award at the Seoul Drama Awards this September for his performance in the series distributed by ITV-Inter Medya. Engin Akyurek’s co-star in the series Tuba Büyüküstün was nominated for ‘Best Performing Actress’ at the 2014 International Emmy Awards for her performance in 20 Minutes in 2014. Korean fans were totally mesmerised by the Turkish lead actor who won the award for his performance as Inspector Omer in the series produced by Ay Yapım. The drama has been very successful in all the territories aired. The series has already sold in more than 45 territories, and reached 69% of audience share in some locations. ITV Inter Medya expects the series to reach 60 territories the end of the year.

Foreign players in Turkey

The strength of Turkey’s local production scene is now a welldocumented trend. But what advice is there for distributors looking to sell into the country? You’d be lucky to get a finished series into Turkish primetime these days. That’s the general consensus among international distributors, who are increasingly being forced to re-think ways of selling into a country fully self-sufficient in programming.

Now the second-largest producer of TV drama in the world behind the U.S., Turkey is consistently churning out high-end, big-budget series such as Ay Yapim’s Ezel (ATV) and Magnificent Century (Star TV) – far more relevant to its audience than anything coming out of Hollywood. The Turkish production scene has been buoyant for some time, but how has the boom affected the demand for imported programming, and what slots remain open for distributors?

“There are first-run opportunities in Turkey for distributors of drama from the UK, the U.S., or other places, but on pay television and digital channels,” says Jamie Lynn, EVP of Sales and Distribution for EMEA at FremantleMedia.

“It’s very unlikely they will be on the big free-to-air [FTA] channels, though. There are more than 10 FTA channels in Turkey, but for the most part, they are commissioning local content. There are exceptions but the big FTAs are making their own stuff.” Lynn believes some FTA broadcasters’ secondary channels, including those operated by staterun TRT, can provide a way in for distributors selling finished content. But he maintains that pay platforms such as Digiturk and D-Smart provide superior opportunities for finished Western programmes, such as FremantleMedia’s fantasy drama Merlin, which aired on CNBC-e in Turkey.

It’s a view echoed by Chris Bartlett, VP of sales at UK-based distributor Digital Rights Group, which recently sold ITV comedy drama Doc Martin to Digiturk, while also offering the option for a remake to the broadcaster.

“Digiturk is the main one for us; they are buying nearly all the movies and dramas we have,” Bartlett says. “We do talk to the likes of TRT and ATV, and in the past they have taken programming from us, but it’s now really about Digiturk and digital channels for us.

“But because what’s working for Turkish FTA broadcasters are series like [period drama] Magnificent Century, we are being asked whether we have programmes like that. And, essentially, we haven’t got a lot like that, he says.” Nevertheless, Bartlett believes there are gaps for finished programmes on networks such as Fox International Channels’ 24Kitchen. There’s also a small amount of space for documentaries on FTA channels, he claims, highlighting DRG’s recent sale of factual series The First World War (10×60’) to Kanal D as a triumph. He added, “Turkey is a huge market and you have a highly educated audience in the country that will not be satisfied watching only content made in that territory.”

For the moment, though, getting finished programming on to a mainstream Turkish channel remains an uphill task. Broadcasters have definitively shifted their focus from acquiring finished programmes to taking the remake rights to popular Western shows like U.S. network Fox’s The OC and The CW’s Gossip Girl. Star TV, for instance, began airing an adaptation of The OC to enormous success last September, after commissioning 13 episodes from Warner Bros International Television Production, with Istanbul-based Ay Yapim producing.