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OTT Brings Creative Freedoms to Turkish TV Market

Variety logo Variety 4/4/2017 Nick Vivarelli
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Make way for a new wave of Turkish dramas, with more compressed storylines and greater edge.

Though free TV still dominates in Turkey, where OTT is just a complement to pay-TV — which has a 27.5% penetration — two innovative high-end dramas, “Masum” (Innocent) and “Phi,” produced respectively for local streaming services BluTV and Puhu TV, will be launched as the big Turkish TV novelty at MipTV.

“Innocent,” a 50-minute crimer about a retired cop forced to contend with a murder involving his son as the culprit, bowed in January as Turkey’s first online streaming series and the first original on BluTV, which is owned by Dogan, the largest media group in Turkey. It’s been a hit.

“Phi” is based on a trio of local bestsellers about a womanizing celebrity shrink and pothead who falls in love with his neighbor. The hour-long show, which is shot in 4K, combines romance, drama and thriller elements. It will launch in late March on Puhu TV, a digital platform owned by Dogus Media Group.

In both shows episodes are far shorter than standard Turkish longforms, which tend to run over two hours. That in itself is a major gamechanger. Also, similar to the impact of cable TV shows in the U.S., they can be bolder in content.

“Everyone in Turkey — the writers, the actors, the producers, the directors — hate making two- hour series,” says “Phi” producer Pelin Distas.

“In terms of creativity, linear TV can only give you so much,” says BluTV CEO and founder Aydin Dogan Yalcindag. “There is just so much more potential with OTT.” He adds that since “Masum,” he has been flooded with scripts and ideas from Turkish screenwriters and directors.

BluTV is also looking to expand outside Turkey as a global OTT for Turkish TV shows, according to Ozge Bulut Marasli, who heads Dogan TV Holding’s international corporate strategy.

Meanwhile Netflix, which launched soft in Turkey in 2016, is ramping up its local service. “They now realize the potential of the Turkish market,” says IHS Markit analyst Constantinos Papavassilopoulos. Their impact “will be interesting to watch.”

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