Highly-anticipated drama co-productions between Turkey and Latin America are finally evolving from wish to reality. Several projects already underway are the starting point for a new type of content that’s set to become the next big trend.

It’s been over five years since the first Turkish title made its way into the region. Chilean network Mega, also a key player in this new co-production stage, lit the flame with the premiere of 1001 Nights in March of 2014. From then on, Turkish dramas expanded across the continent, breaking ratings’ records and premiering on multiple screens.

Once Turkish content’s so-called “boom” proved it was much more than just a short trend, people started wondering what would be the next step, the next business venture. Drama co-production between Turkey and Latin America was the answer.

However, there were -and still are- many obstacles to this goal. The economic situation in both Turkey and Latin America make a potential co-production -which despite being designed to lighten the burden on both ends, still isn’t cheap- pretty risky.

Perhaps even more important were the differences in the business models used by producers in Turkey and Latin America, marked by each region and their TV networks’ specific programming styles.

“It’s very difficult to co-produce because we are producing a series one week and airing it the next,” said Emre Görentas, Content Sales Deputy Manager at ATV Distribution, said to ttvOriginals. “We don’t know how many episodes it will be, because we depend on ratings.”

Emre Görentas, Content Sales Deputy Manager at ATV Distribution

“It could be four episodes or 100. In Latin America, networks know how many episodes a series will have. They film them all first and when they’re done, they premiere the series. We don’t work like that, which makes co-production difficult,” he added.

That difference in methodology was partially overcome in recent years, when Turkish producers began to innovate with shorter contents, designed for new digital platforms that have launched in the country.

These short series, aimed at services like PuhuTV or BluTV, opened an array of possibilities. And now, it’s no longer necessary to take on the challenge of taking a 90, 120-minute episode “dizi” (drama) to Latin America.

The Product’s Potential

Another key factor for Turkish-Latin American co-productions to be coming true is that expectation is growing in both sides of the Atlantic.

“Audiences are demanding it, so it’s our obligation to do it,” said Kerim Emrah Turna, Executive Director of Kanal D International. So this seems to be the year in which Latin American and Turkish co-productions will finally come to life, with at least two projects underway and several others in the works.

Kerim Emrah Turna, Executive Director of Kanal D International

Turkish distributor Madd Entertainment, created by Turkish producers Ay Yapim and Medyapim, announced that the adaptations of Persona, a co-production with Viacom International Studios (VIS) and 20 Minutes, which is co-produced with Mega, will be available by the end of 2020.

“The co-production with Viacom will begin filming in the spring,” said Özlem Özsümbul, Head of Sales at Madd Entertainment. “Our development team, as well as Viacom’s, is working with the screenwriters. It’s been a lot of conversations, conference calls, about the story,” she explained.

Persona (originally titled Şahsiyet) is a 12-episode series that became a success in Turkey on PuhuTV. The crime drama follows a retired 60-year-old man and a female cop whose lives are connected by a mysterious murder.

The adaptation will shorten the number of episodes to 10 and be titled El asesino del olvido.

“We already have the script for the first episodes in Spanish. We also signed the deal with the stars, but I can’t announce it just yet. It’s all going very well,” she said.

As for the deal with Mega in Chile, the co-production will adapt the series 20 Minutes, a 60-episode drama originally aired on Star TV.

“The first episode of the co-production with Mega will be ready by 2020,” said Özsümbul. “It will be filmed in the spring or in the late spring,” she added.

20 Dakika, as it was originally titled in Turkey, was sold in multiple territories. It follows the story of a family that’s broken when a police officer arrests the young mother, who’s sentenced to 20 years in prison. Her husband must prove her innocence with the help of a private investigator.

“We are in discussions for other projects with other territories, co-productions, remakes… and we will soon announced one or two new ones,” she revealed.

Kanal D, with its powerful production division, is also promising to announce new projects in the short term. “We are analyzing co-production and co-financing opportunities with our Latin American partners. I think there will be progress soon,” said Emrah Turna.

“Co-production isn’t easy, because it’s a project between two cultures, which is not easy to finance. However, at Kanal D we have one of the most powerful media organizations in Turkey and, when it comes to partnering with one of the most powerful media organizations in Latin America, we should be able to do it,” he added.

Kanal D signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Mega in 2017, thus news in this regard is expected to be announced soon, but Emrah Turna said that, when it comes to searching for business models, this won’t be the only way.

“I can’t say we will only stick to this business model, that we will film in Turkey or Latin America. We could do it anywhere, with whoever and under any business model. We are a distributor, a production company and a group of TV networks,” he explained.

On a similar boat is Turkish distributor Mistco, which represents TRT’s contents and thus has an enormous potential as a co-production partner.

“We are currently working on licensing content, but we see that there is a great demand for Turkish content worldwide and we are in conversations about potential co-productions with other countries,” Aysegul Tuzun, VP of Sales and Marketing at Mistco, said to ttvOriginals.

Aysegul Tuzun, VP of Sales and Marketing at Mistco

In fact, according to Tuzun, the company’s catalog already includes co-productions and has confirmed several other projects in development.

A Different Approach

Different business models lead to opportunities for all Turkish players, with drive and innovation, to join what could be a new wave of TV hits, regardless of whether they have a production division or not.

Such is the case for Inter Medya. The distributor has already proven successful in Turkish drama production -the anticipate return of cult series Behzat Ç was a big hit on BluTV-, but expects to operate from a different approach to this Turkish-LatAm co-productions.

“We feel close to Latin American broadcasters and producers,” Ahmet Ziyalar, President and COO of Inter Medya, said to ttvOriginals. “We have a giant drama production industry in Turkey, and what Inter Medya wants to do is to be the middleman who joins Latin American and Turkish producers, to then be in charge of distributing the products generated as a result,” he said.

Ahmet Ziyalar, President and COO of Inter Medya

“We have a couple of projects we’ve been working on for almost a year,” he added. “We haven’t signed anything yet, but we are close to making an announcement.”

A clue can be found in the recent deal that TIMS&B Productions signed with Plano a Plano in Spain to co-produce a project. Inter Medya will be the distributor of said content, taking on the same middleman role it intends to have for co-productions with Latin America.

Meanwhile, Calinos Entertainment has already tried its luck in terms of co-production with the adaptation of one of its hit series Forbidden Love (Aşk-ı Memnu) in Romania as Original Sin (Fructul oprit) which became a hit on the Antena 1 network.

Same as Inter Medya, Calinos Entertainment also retained the international distribution rights to the new series.

“We want to do the same in Latin America,” Duda Rodrigues, Sales Representative for Calinos in Latin America, said to ttvOriginals. “We want to take a Turkish script and adapt it locally in each country.”

Duda Rodrigues, Sales Representative for Calinos in Latin America

Rodrigues said that Calinos Entertainment already has different projects in development that go beyond Latin America, naming France and Italy among “the many countries interested.”

“We see that all countries, big and small, want to have a local production, even if it’s just once a year. So we are backing them with a tremendous product, with proven scripts, that have already been successful,” she said.

“We not only sell the scripts, but also the know-how,” she explained. “Our idea is for Turkish directors to develop the series initial production. The rest of the elements, such as casting and actors, would happen locally. The idea is to bring the Turkish production model to each country.”

For a company like Global Agency, the sale of the “know how” is something that regularly happens with format licensing. However, the distributor led by Izzet Pinto hasn’t announced any drama projects in Latin America quite yet.

Global Agency has been part of co-production projects, most recently between SBS in South Korea and HECE Medya in Turkey, but the focus has always been on formats.

In addition, Eccho Rights was one of the first distributors to talk about drama co-production between Latin America and Turkey, believing it was the next logical step to follow Turkish drama’s initial boom.

Recently, Barbora Suster, Head of Sales at Eccho Rights for Latin America and Iberia, said to ttvOriginals: “We are negotiating formats with several clients in Latin America. One of them is very advanced, almost closed, and with others we are half-way.”

Barbora Suster, Head of Sales at Eccho Rights for Latin America and Iberia

According to the executive, the company hopes to be able to announce the more advanced project at Natpe Miami. “It will be a very nice collaboration and the start of a long-term, fruitful relationship,” she added.