By YOLDAŞ ÖZDEMIR*
The İstanbul Chamber of Commerce (ICOC) has been working for many years to promote Turkish content more effectively all over the world. It takes part in international content fairs and works in different countries to promote Turkish content. We talked to ICOC President Şekib Avdagiç about ICOC’s work with the Turkish content industry.
The success of our TV series around the world is an important source of pride for all of us. What can you say if we were to define this success more clearly?
Turkish TV Series spreads the Turkish Word on screens all around the world. As you know, the first international success of Turkish TV series started in 2006 in Middle Eastern countries. It soon followed with the Balkans, Latin America and Western Europe with Spain, Italy and France.
I would like to underline the socio-geographical aspects of this spread. A course starting from geographically closer towards culturally closer and then to all around the world. More importantly, Türkiye ranks second in the global TV drama export sector. Our TV series attract great interest on national channels and digital platforms in nearly 160 countries.
To summarize, in the past 17 years, Turkish content has reached all corners of the world and has become a choice brand. This is a great success story for our country.
Today, 25 percent of the content exported globally is of Turkish origin. Two important features of Turkish TV series sector are behind this fact: We boast potential and skills to meet the global needs while producing the TV series content. So, the Turkish ability to produce goods meeting the global needs is also reflected in the contents sector which I believe is the most delicate field.
Secondly, the increasing popularity of these TV series shows that the stories of Türkiye can find meaning not only in Türkiye but also in the world. These stories echo around the world owing to the series. We take pride in the international acclaim that our actors, who have contributed greatly to the success of Turkish TV series, receive at international film festivals. Turkish movie stars on the red carpet successfully represent our beloved country.
ICOC is one of the most important actors behind the success of Turkish TV series in the world. You have been working on many projects in this field for a long time. One of the most important steps was Türkiye’s participation as the guest of honor at the 2015 MIPCOM. Can you tell us about ICOC’s activities in content export and promotion since 2015?
Let me first say this: As one of the five largest chambers of commerce in the world, we believe that if development is a bird, one wing is trade and the other wing is culture. If we aim to have Türkiye developed, the private sector needs to weigh in the culture as much as commerce and manufacturing. Our 141 years-long history is shaped by this principle.
Since “visuality is everything” in this 21st Century, we could not avoid this. In 2011, the Chamber organized the first National Participation in MIPCOM by our country. Subsequently, as you mentioned, Türkiye became the Guest of Honor in MIPCOM 2015. We ensured that the achievements of the sector up to that day created a global wind. The aftermath was so fast that we watched the success story of our content in one breath like a Turkish TV drama.
In parallel with the international success of the Turkish TV series, film, content, TV and production sector, the ICC’s fair organizations for the sector were diversified with international events held in different continents. On the one hand, we ensured that our relevant committee at the ICOC dominates the sector with active work, while on the other hand, we organize events where all film and TV series producers join forces under our roof and find solutions to their problems.
COORDINATIONS WITH THE MINISTRIES
In coordination with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Türkiye and the Ministry of Trade of the Republic of Türkiye, we ensured that inclusive policies for the sector were produced and implemented.
Internationally, we have never slowed down. We have both supported and paved the way for sector representatives and companies. We have also participated in every fair and event they indicated so as to provide a platform for collaborations which in return helped increase the profile of Turkish productions in the international market.
The most important of these was MIPCOM, the participation in which has now become an ICOC classic. This fair organized in Cannes really offers great opportunities and possibilities to all stakeholders worldwide in many branches such as animation, documentary, series, film, format, TV and production. That’s why we are at MIPCOM Cannes to promote the content of our companies, to make distribution and co-production agreements and to communicate with the forces shaping the global entertainment industry. We will continue to be there in the future.
Latin America is an important market for Turkish content. What would you like to say about this?
Yes, Latin America is one of the hotspots where the demand for Turkish TV Series skyrocketed in no-time. Like everywhere else, Turkish films are released in Latin America and achieve great success. Latin America has almost become a home away from home for Turkish TV.
Turkish TV series are celebrating their 10th anniversary in Latin America today. The adventure of our TV series in Latin America started with Chile in 2014. In a short time, it has made Latin Americans addicted to it. The most important factor in this is, as I said before, the success of capturing common themes. Turkish screenwriters and producers are really successful in this regard. We as a nation are very emotional. We reflect this very well in our TV series. I think this is why we have succeeded in entering the emotional world of the Americas.
SERIES SHAPE THE DAILY ROUTINE
In the countries where our TV series are broadcast, they have even come to redefine and shape the daily routine programs of local audiences. Our production companies are now setting international standards. Industry representatives are constantly making plans for growth, expansion and access to new markets. We are pleased about this. Turkish scripts have become capable of captivating audiences in almost every country in the world. As our story grows stronger, the reach of the content naturally expands.
We have gained enough experience to be able to use the term “traditional” in front of the term Turkish TV series, and the interest from Latin America proves this. As you know, interest in Latin America has surpassed the global demand for Turkish TV series.
Romantic dramas, historical series, and romantic comedies have been doing very well in Latin America recently. We welcome this with open arms.
Content sales, along with tourism, have an impact on the sales of Turkish products around the world. Can you observe the impact on other export items in countries where our content is watched intensively?
We absolutely do! We had witnessed this phenomenon via other cultural means before the age of TV series dawned. This is why we focused on the culture. But with the TV series, we have clear- ly seen that the cultural impact has led to the economy.
Let me be clear: TV series have been very successful in paving the way for Turkish merchants and export goods. First our TV series goes there, then our traders can express themselves there without any difficulty. They are able to gain economic collaborations and commercial markets.
Therefore, we can’t talk about a single TV series market, there is also a strong economy created by the TV series as well as the TV series economy. In other words, TV series trigger a wide range of sectors, from tourism to automotive, from real estate to furniture, from health to food. In particular, the brands that are driven by TV series create a huge value together with the sectors.
What will ICOC do at MIPCOM this year? What are the main objectives of ICOC at MIPCOM?
Let me start with our main objective: As you know, MIPCOM is the most prestigious event of the content industry where new projects are introduced for the first time. Therefore, we have two main objectives: The first is to maintain Türkiye’s strong position in the world TV series rankings by ensuring the splendor and visibility of Turkish companies.
In other words, as important as achieving a position, it is also important to maintain and raise that position. As ICOC, we care about maintaining the strong representation of the Turkish content industry.
Second, despite the economic problems, this year, just like every year, to ensure that our companies reach the sales figures they desire. We have prepared the necessary ground both with events, national participation organizations and by advertising Türkiye in promotional media.
As for what we do as ICOC, we organize MIPCOM National Participation. We increase the international competitiveness of our companies at the ICOC booth.
This year, our companies showed great interest in the fair. Therefore, we needed more space than we anticipated. We did not turn our companies away and increased Türkiye’s space from 177 m2 in 2022 to 218 m2 in 2023. So, we were able to assist 21 Turkish companies to be represented in the national pavilion provided by the ICOC.
I would like to take this opportunity to invite all participants to the Turkish National Pavilion at booth L50/L51 on the P-1 floor to rediscover the rich- ness of Turkish content.
Apart from MIPCOM, which fairs on content exports will you participate in?
In ICOC, we are determined to increase our visibility and activity in the content creation sector which is the “soft power” of this age. For this reason, we do not limit our participation in fairs only to MIPCOM. As ICOC, we attach importance to participating in the leading events of the world, where the important stakeholders of the global sector participate.
This year, we are taking part in six important international events. These include Content Americas in the USA, NATPE Budapest in Hungary, MIPTV and MIPCOM Cannes in France, Dubai International Content Market in the United Arab Emirates and ATF Asia TV Forum and Market in Singapore.
What do you think is the potential of our sector for the coming years?
Undoubtedly, the sector has great potential. The growth momentum continues. But we should not ignore this: This is a very long-term adventure. Our goal is to move forward at a gripping pace, just like our Turkish TV series. Our goal is to reach new seasons in Turkish content exports by growing our market and our potential every year…
I would like to emphasize one more point: along with our TV series, our TV series actors have also started to appear in international productions. Now, our actors have started to stand out with their international recognition.
Also, our technical capabilities are get- ting higher and stronger: Our productions are getting richer with increasingly impressive visual cinematic experiences. Technology is supporting more and more of our content. We are diversifying our scripts even more. We are increasing our influence not only on free-to-air channels but also on subscription platforms.
I believe that the success of Turkish dramas will continue as a global phenomenon.