Turkey Pulse

Will digital platforms revolutionize Turkish TV series?

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Article Summary
BluTV and Puhu TV, two Turkish companies that provide online broadcast content to their subscribers, have for the first time produced original TV shows. In Turkey, the change of switching from conventional TV to internet for watching shows will be gradual, but the potential is huge.

Over the past month, Turkey's TV sector has been awash with reports that local platforms BluTV and Puhu TV will soon stream their content online to subscribers. In addition to this online streaming, the two Turkish platforms announced that they will produce their own original TV shows.

International giants like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime have been widely successful broadcasting their own original digital content, with Netflix and Amazon Prime available on the Turkish market. Turkey’s companies have decided to experiment with global trends that use the internet to spread new ways of media consumption. There is a lot of curiosity about the audience’s reaction to these projects in Turkey, a country that is known for one of the highest broadcasting rates of TV shows in the world.

BluTV, founded by the Dogan group, celebrated its first anniversary Jan. 23. BluTV streams 30 TV channels live and also offers about 1,100 films and 700-800 hours of TV shows. Their slogan is “without commitment, without installation, without ads.” To attract more users to its platform, the management also made accessible part of the subscription services to viewers outside Turkey, probably targeting the diaspora eager to stay connected to their homeland through watching programs in their native tongue. The novelty that brought the most attention to BluTV in the news this year was “Masum” (“Innocent”), Turkey's first online streaming series broadcast Jan. 27. In contrast with the usual 2½-hour-long episodes of soap operas broadcast on TV, each of the eight episodes of “Innocent” would be 60 minutes long. Long working hours and the duration of episodes have troubled the employees of Turkish drama sets for a while now. There have been many complaints by unions and actors that organized an industry-wide movement in 2015, for improving standards of work on the set. Now it remains to be seen whether “Innocent” will bring a more durable change or set a new standard in the sector with its shorter episodes.

Regardless, the director of BluTV, Aydin Dogan Yalcindag, has said that Turkey is a difficult market and that there are two big challenges: the pirates and internet quotas, referring to the availability of internet, but lack of fast internet. In addition, they are dealing with very expensive selling of data on mobile devices. “These are big obstacles, but none of these can stop the change. They can only slow down the process,” Yalcindag said.

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On the other hand, Puhu TV, funded by Dogus Holding, prides itself on being free of charge for its users, as its own commercials will bring in the funding needed. Thus, the management hopes to escape the pirate problem. It will not show foreign TV shows or films shown in film theaters, but instead it will host a virtual library with popular local TV shows and old films digitalized in 10 different categories. The platform is marketing its services as “ending remote control wars,” and several commercials show people of different occupations in various situations worried about missing out the episode of their favorite show and advised to relax and use Puhu TV.

Puhu TV’s first originally produced content will be a TV show, “Fi Ci Pi,” available online in March, with a cast of popular actors. The show is based on the best-seller book by Turkish author Azra Cohen. Each month, five out of the total 15 episodes will be released online. A year later, the show will be broadcast on TV.

Turkey has a huge youth population, and that generation is most likely to use mobile devices and the internet. Hence, there is a lot of potential for platforms like BluTV and Puhu TV. Several studies show that, for teenage girls and boys in Turkey, the most popular leisure and cultural activity is watching TV, so original content on digital platforms has significant potential in the future. Other studies show that Turks increasingly turn off the TV to go online, so now the challenge is to provide adequate and diversified content to keep attracting more subscribers within the target group.

Moreover, one of the most important elements of watching original content on digital platforms is binge-watching, meaning that users can watch all episodes of a particular TV show one after the other. For example, the dilemma for BluTV was whether to make available all eight episodes of Innocent” to its viewers. Management decided to show two episodes per week, but that might not make all subscribers happy. Puhu TV might encounter similar issues.

It is also important to keep in mind that the TV show sector is highly saturated in Turkey and viewers have become more selective. While producing a successful show is no longer an easy job, the revenue potential is higher too, as Turkish series are now sold roughly to 200 countries with annual exports surpassing $200 million.

Ultimately, the culture of watching TV is changing. In Turkey, the change of switching from conventional TV to internet for watching shows will be gradual, and success of any platform with such new initiatives requires investment, patience and the right strategy. The experience from these first trials will certainly bring fresh competition and be valuable for all others willing to try out this industry.

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Found in: youth, film, turkish society, cellphones, digital revolution, internet, television, tv

Riada Asimovic Akyol is an independent analyst and writer. Her articles have been published by The New York Times, Al Jazeera English, The Nation and The National. She is pursuing a doctorate related to religion and nationalism at Galatasaray University, Istanbul. On Twitter: @riadaaa

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