By Sara Alessi
“Turkey has grown to become the world’s second most prolific drama producer after the U.S.,” said U.S.-Turkey TV industry veteran Deniz Ziya Temeltas. “And now that Turkish dramas are winning the attention of Western and Northern Europe, the U.S., Russia and Latin America itself, Turkish drama producers are eying the international market for co-productions and remakes to create a U.S.$1 billion-a-year TV content and formats export industry.”
Considering that Turkey is at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, the territory is a strategic market for a growing number of audiovisual companies and Temeltas’s estimate could be a reachable target.
One TV trade show that will benefit from this growth is DISCOP Istanbul, a B2B content market that stimulates the TV business across Central and Eastern Europe, West and Central Asia, the Middle East and the Gulf territories.
The fourth edition of the three-day DISCOP Istanbul market kicks off March 4 at the International Convention and Exhibition Center (ICEC) in Istanbul, Turkey. Patrick Zuchowicki, CEO of Los Angeles and Johannesburg-based DISCOP organizer Basic Lead, noted that one significant change compared to last year is that the event has moved to a “major convention center, so we have more exhibitors, more exhibiting space and we are expecting more participants.”
ICEC is a 12-minute walk from the Inter-continental Ceylan Hotel, where the event was held last year. Organizers expect 1,000 delegates representing over 500 companies from over 90 countries, including more than 400 buyers and over 200 exhibitors.
“We have more buyers and TV station representatives than we’ve had in the past,” since DISCOP’s new Middle East specialist traveled to countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Dubai and others to encourage them to participate. According to Zuchowicki, “We’ve gone into the region to bring as many new TV stations and other players as possible to DISCOP Istanbul.”
While attendance is up this year, Basic Lead is in full compliance with its obligation to respect the embargo imposed by the United Nations against Iran, and has not invited the country to DISCOP Istanbul.
There will be seven national pavilions this year — China, France, the U.K., Iraq, the Ukraine, South Africa and Malaysia. “We’ll have huge attendance from buyers from the Middle East, up 20 percent over last year,” Zuchowicki said. Every major buyer from Turkey, including broadcasters, pay-TV, OTT, satellite, etc. will attend. Plus, there will be buyers from Central Asia, and Iraq will attend for the first time with an Iraqi pavilion. Zuchowicki said that though there is political tension in the region, “it doesn’t impact DISCOP.”
There are two specific issues concerning the entertainment business, and both are related to the controversial policies of Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The first is the boycott of Turkish content imposed by countries such as Egypt and the UAE (see related front cover story). The second is the law that allows authorities to block access to websites without court rulings.
Yet, exhibitors are looking forward to a busy, successful market this year, especially since “last year it was a very good market and it was crowded until the last day,” according to Kanal D’s Kerim Emrah Turna.
“We don’t believe turmoil in the Middle East will affect program sales whatsoever,” said Marielle Zuccarelli of A+E Networks. “This year we are actually seeing more broadcasters registered for DISCOP Istanbul from the MENA region than in 2013.”
Zuccarelli is confident that “this is going to be a very busy DISCOP, as there are newly registered visitors reaching out to us each week.” The company’s schedule is “rapidly filling up, and we are still adding additional meetings as we approach the market,” she said at the end of February.
A+E has found that content with crime, magic and action themes does well in the region, as do family dramas, so they will be on-hand with TV movie Flowers in the Attic and the new magic-themed revenge series Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne.
“The region is very resilient in times of political strife,” said eOne’s Tess Charman, “and interestingly pay-TV revenues are set to climb by more than 83 percent between 2010 and 2020…with satellite expected to remain the dominant TV platform. New and upcoming SVoD providers will also be actively pursuing new content,” she said.
eOne’s Cristina Sala said, “The overall presence of Turkish broadcasters is great as far as I can see from the participants list, key Middle Eastern broadcasters are still planning to attend this market.” The tension doesn’t seem to be keeping participants away.
Kanal D’s Emrah Turna added, “Istanbul is easy to reach from all around the world and is becoming more important and we are actually seeing a decrease in markets that take place close to it.”
As far as content that sells well at DISCOP Istanbul, eOne’s Charman said that “Turkish soap operas are hugely popular, commanding huge license fees. U.S. features are also equally important.”
In addition to meetings between exhibitors and buyers, participants will be kept busy with a full conference schedule running throughout the three-day market. Conferences will cover a wide range of topics, including trends in Turkish dramas, how to create successful formats, digital TV in Turkey and Central Asia and more. Participants will have the opportunity to relax and network at the Welcoming Cocktail Party on March 4.