By ÖZLEM ÖZDEMIR*
Since its foundation in 2016, BluTV, as the local platform of Türkiye, streamed different series, documentaries and formats of highest quality. This enabled the platform’s capacity to maintain a position of strength in international competition.
The BluTV original series, Magarsus, which started streaming in August, became a fan favorite in no time. We talked to CEO Deniz Şaşmaz Oflaz about BluTV’s near-term goals, including co-productions and broadcasts in different languages.
BluTV has created multiple co-productions in Europe and in the MENA. First of all, could you elaborate on what you have done regarding co-productions thus far?
We have successfully completed three co-financed projects with partners from MENA this year. For the past couple of years, we started evaluating and developing projects suitable for co-production and co-financing.
We are trying to connect with platforms and production companies in markets around the world and present our pipeline of projects. Once we find a certain common interest for a particular project we continue developing this project according to the demands and necessities of both us and our partners.
This is a rather long and delicate journey that includes cooperation between not only drama development teams but content operations and marketing teams.
Are there any new co-produced content in Europe and the MENA in the short term, and what will they be?
Magarsus is the most recent co-financed project of BluTV. We are working on multiple projects which are either suitable for co-financing or co-production.
During this market, we are actively looking for partners in CIS in order to co-produce an Epic mini-series about the Turkic History. Another project in the pipeline is the second season of our popular show Deeply. We are discussing collaboration opportunities.
What criteria do you set for co-production deals? Do you have criteria such as story, production, specific genre choices? Or what kind of content and technical expectations do you have from the partners you sign co-production agreements with?
The co-production strategy is highly focused on our Originals. Due to the platform’s rapid growth, and the increase of the production costs, finding production partners is key to us in order to increase the volume of our releases. This approach allows for a production cost/efficiency/ quality ratio like no other.
TURKISH SPEAKING CONTENT IS THE PRIORITY
Our priority is Turkish speaking content, but we are also open to multiple language series. Turkish content now has a worldwide sales potential, so our partners are also open to this kind of collaboration.
At the end of the day, all partner’s expectations are not only to have a successful series in their core market but also to be able to widely distribute these originals to other clients around the world to maximize the return on investment.
As BluTV, you prioritize the production of original stories in many different genres in the Turkish market. How does this resonate globally?
Good stories, whether global or local, always travel well. As a local platform, from day one we focused on bringing the best local stories to our core audience. This helped us differentiate from global platforms. We were pretty confident that a good quality local series would easily find its audience in other projects.
I must add that this was more difficult before the streaming era. Thanks to global platforms such as Netflix, Prime Video viewers around the world are more engaged with content from other cultures and languages.
We distributed our content to global and regional platforms such as Max&Viu and Netflix and PayTV channels in Europe, CIS, US Hispanic, Latin America and APAC. Having different types of Turkish content in our catalog opens the door to new territories such as Australia, China or Poland.
As there are sessions on the rise of FAST TV at MIPCOM 2023, we would like to talk about your efforts in this regard. Helwa TV channel, which BluTV launched together with Ninetnine, is now live. Does this channel only broadcast BluTV content, in which regions does the channel broadcast? What kind of feedback have you received with your partnership on this channel?
Our approach to FAST TV was rather strategic than being an opportunistic one. BluTV is the first and only SVOD platform in Türkiye investing in live TV channels. We thought that some of our subscribers would like to switch to their basic viewing habit of linear channels.
So in addition to traditional and PAY TV channels on our platform, we created FAST channels composed of our own content and we replicated this in Arabic as well. Helwa TV was the result of this approach.
Helwa TV is mainly composed of BluTV Original series, documentaries, kids originals and shows. To address our Arabic speaking audience, we included content from MENA. Helwa TV is now available in France, Sling in the US and MENA. In MENA, Helwa TV will be available on STC TV soon.
Helwa TV, though a relatively young channel, has been receiving significant interest from operators and platforms which are prioritizing linear channels services.
Is there any truth to the allegations that you aim to create a FAST TV that will broadcast in Spanish and English? How is the work going on in this regard? What kind of a catalog is planned for the broadcasting of these multilingual channels?
A FAST TV channel in Spanish is our priority. The channel will be composed primarily of BluTV Originals and some other Turkish series.
As the CEO of BluTV, how do you evaluate the rise in FAST TV in general?
FAST channels are increasing rapidly around the world but once again it is mainly generating significant revenues in countries such as the US or Germany where the online advertising market is already considerable and quite mature.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for smaller or less-developed markets. The cost of dubbing and small revenue projection makes it more difficult to enter some markets. Hence, media companies should carefully assess its potential for each market.
It is of course a great tool to generate revenue from the sitting library assets and a way to make a wider audience discover content for media companies in the SVOD business.
You come from a family of TV executives, you have been on the core team since day one of BluTV and you have been the CEO of BluTV for a while now. In other words, you have personally witnessed the history of both traditional TV and the digitalization. What do you think will be the rising trends and changing habits in the upcoming period? What changes do you think will happen in the sector, globally?
I can easily say that I was born and raised in this industry. We have witnessed the digitalization era in the past 10 years. The pandemic had also a positive impact in the digitization process.
However, starting from 2022, big media conglomerates started suffering from shifting to the digital business. It was a big and bold decision to keep their content exclusive to their platforms instead of distributing it since they were generating significant revenues from licensing.
In addition, they had to overcome many challenges such as high cash burn (content, technology, and localization cost), churn, low ARPU etc.
And lastly, the competition between the global platforms elevated the content cost to an unaffordable level.
WE SHALL SEE MORE AND MORE COLLABORATION
Consequently, today and for the next couple of years, we will be seeing more and more consolidation and collaboration. Media companies will focus on having a healthy and profitable business.
They will reduce content cost by prioritizing co-production and co-broadcasting and maximize revenues by going territory by territory distribution strategies.
Consolidations will also continue, I believe, we will see global platforms buying more and more local platforms.
As for the viewers, it is much harder to foresee the watching habits in the next couple of years. All I can say is whether it is a short or long format, scripted or unscripted, broadcasted or streamed, all that matters is to find good quality content. A strong IP can make all the difference and a good content will always travel well and reach wider audiences.