Enjoy Istanbul with Marc Guillet

Turkish stories are new to western audiences

10 Mar
Written by Marc Guillet
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The real trend in Turkish television is improving quality of drama series and improving story lines. ATV goes for high quality content. 

Photo: Slawomira Kozieniec

in: Disbook #4 March 2014

There are many ways to become the General Manager of a television channel. The story of ATV’s Adem Gürses makes that clear. He is from Ordu on the Black Sea coast, studied economics at Ankara University, but his real passion was watching movies and TV.

“I went to the Turkish state broadcaster TRT in 1975 and succeeded in my entry exam to become a producer and director. In the 1990s I became the founder of the first commercial TV channel, Star1”, he says. After that he was the founder and general manager of six commercial television channels.

Gürses explains to Disbook the market position, the success stories and the recent developments at ATV. “We are in second position overall in Turkish TV landscape. In drama television series we are definitely number one. We have always been in a front position in the drama section in Turkey. The most popular and unforgettable ones were produced by our channel. Our slogan is: ‘dramas are watched on ATV’. In numbers of viewers of dramas we are far away the most watched, according to surveys by the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK). In the international market of Turkish dramas we have the biggest share. Not only in the past couple of years. Our new TV series are also very popular. Two out of every three dramas watched are ATV titles. That shows how strong and successful we are.

Our “Asmalı Konak” (Ivy Mansion), which ran from 2002 to 2004, had a total of 54 episodes, and was the highest rated Turkish TV series ever, with a record number of viewers; 78 out of every 100 viewers watched this series. It was directed by Çağan Irmak and written by Mahinur Ergun and Meral Okay. The finale of the series was released as a feature film titled Asmalı Konak: Hayat.

The series was about the Karadağs, a wealthy family that owns vast estates in Cappadocia. Their heir Seymen goes to study in New York where he meets Bahar, the daughter of a family from Istanbul. They fall in love, get married and move to the Karadağs’ ancestral home, the “Asmalı Konak”.

Other very popular series from the last couple of years were “Aliye” (2004-2006), a romantic family drama; “Bir Istanbul Masalı” (An Istanbul Fairytale), about middle age romance; and “Valley of the Wolves”, a media franchise which has been very popular obtaining high ratings for the television series and one of the highest box office returns in the history of the Turkish cinema for the first movie.  The newest hit series is “The Fugitive (Kaçak), which started in 2013. And released recently are two new titles: “Dirty Money & Love” (Kara Para Aşk), and “Aşk düğümü” (Love Knot).

Almost all dramas of ATV are about city life, city culture. And the series target all demographic groups and all ages. We are very careful with sexual content as we are a family channel and we make sure that our programs are suitable for families. As a commercial channel we look at our target groups – the demographic groups who are interesting for our advertisers – when we select the story lines and the titles. We go for the A-B group (upper class) and C1-group (middle class). That means that you have to go for high quality content.

Watching television is one of the most popular things as entertainment for Turkish people. On average they watch TV 5.5 hours per day. “In Turkey TV counts for 58 percent of the total advertisement market. In Germany it is 24 percent and in the US it is also much lower than in Turkey”, says Gürses.

Quiz shows are the most popular formats. The game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” is the highest rated one. Another one ATV will launch soon is the new reality series “Opposite Worlds”, which features contestants competing in a simulated past and future.

Turkish series will continue to enjoy great successes on the international market for a while, Gürses thinks. “Because our eastern stories are new to western audiences. Turkey is in the center of East and West. We can use the best of both worlds and make new products”.

General Manager Gürses is very adamant when asked about the trends in the Turkish TV market. “It is not historic productions, because only one was very popular, many others flopped. The real trend is: improving quality of drama series and improving story lines.”

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