Turkish TV has enjoyed over a decade of phenomenal success, but will the era of online streaming change the industry's fortunes?
Actors Songul Oden (R) and Ayca Varlier, who play characters in the Turkish soap opera “Noor”, wave in Beirut September 8, 2008. REUTERS/Hussam Shbaro
Who could have predicted the global success of Turkish TV dramas over the past decade?
Turkey became the world’s second-biggest exporter of TV dramas after the US with a business volume of USD350 million, enjoying popularity in the Arab world, the Balkans, Latin America, and the Caucasus region.
Turkish television dramas follow a conventional formula characterized by emotional scenes and lengthy episodes that last between 120 and 150 minutes.
Even though this formula helped Turkish producers achieve immense success over the past 10 years, changing trends in the global TV industry and the mounting complaints about the duration of the episodes are now forcing a change of style in 2019.
In 2016, two leaders of Turkish media, Doğuş Holding and Doğan Holding, introduced their own online streaming platforms, PuhuTV and BluTV.
Both platforms started to produce their original series and have managed to create a dynamic environment in the sector over the past three years.
Strict government regulations on TV content, including censorship of scenes containing sex, alcohol, and smoking, had begun to affect the quality of productions over the years, but PuhuTV and BluTV turned the lack of government regulation for streaming platforms into an advantage. By producing content that is not allowed to be shown on TV, combined with a shorter duration of episodes, these online streaming platforms are offering audiences better productions and are encouraging the phenomenon of “binge watching.”
However, Turkey’s online streaming platforms are going to face restrictions in 2019 as a result of a new bill for regulation of online broadcasts thanks to RTÜK, the Turkish state agency for monitoring, regulating, and sanctioning radio and television broadcasts.
It is expected that with the increasing demand we will see new competitor platforms using different technologies or subscription methods in the market in the coming years.
If a new platform meets the needs of the Turkish audience with technological solutions, it could give rise to an exponential boom.
For example, an online quiz show broadcast app called “Hadi” caught the attention of millions of Turkish users in a very short period time just by rewarding people instead of charging them monthly by subscription system.
While using the app, the audience can earn money just by answering the questions that appear on their screen instead of watching the stream as a traditional TV contest. After its success, “Hadi” is now planning to turn the app into an interactive TV broadcast.
After Netflix’s latest Black Mirror episode Bandersnatch, the idea of “chose your own adventure” type of shows are now on the rise. Netflix has already announced that new interactive episodes are on the way and Bandersnatch’s popularity shows us that 2019 could be the year for interactive content.
The transition from conventional TV broadcasts to digital platforms is a worldwide trend.
There are many local examples in other countries that have developed in the wake of Netflix’s unparalleled success. With recent global interest in the Asian TV drama, especially with the success of South Korean shows, online streaming platforms such as Youku, Tudou, iFlix, and Viu have become popular in Asian countries.
In Latin America, video-on-demand services have also started to dominate the entertainment sector. It is estimated that services there will be worth USD2.86 billion by 2022.
In European countries such as Germany and France, traditional TV broadcasters are also working on new online platforms to compete with Netflix and Amazon.
Facing various competitors from different countries, Netflix is developing global strategies to enter local markets. For instance, Netflix entered the online streaming market in Turkey by releasing “The Protector”, its first original series in Turkish, in December 2018. In the short term we will see more original productions in Turkish on Netflix.
Taking Netflix’s calculated steps as an example, it is expected that local online streaming platforms will develop global strategies to export their original series to other countries in 2019.
Technological advances and the changing demands of audiences will continue to shape the power balance of TV sector in 2019 and beyond.