Tag Archives: Telenovela

Novela titans at Natpe

From romance and comedy to politics and crime, the Latin drama line-up at Natpe 2017 looks as entertaining as ever. DQ examines some of the new titles being showcased at the Miami event.

In recent years, Miami programme market Natpe has firmly established itself as a global distribution hub. However, its location means it is also an exceptionally strong platform for telenovelas and other forms of Latino drama. As in previous years, the 2017 edition will see a broad array of launches from leading players like Globo, Televisa, Telemundo and Telefe.

Parts of Me follows a lonely man who finds out he’s the father of seven kids

Brazilian giant Globo is in Miami with a large slate of titles including Lady Revolution, a telenovela about a woman striving to achieve her dream of freedom in the 18th century, and Parts of Me, a telenovela about a lonely man who finds out he’s the father of seven kids.

The broadcaster also has a telenovela that fits neatly into the recent trend towards time travel stories. Entitled Time After Time, the show is a love story centring on a young couple called Livia and Felipe. Prevented from living a love story in the 19th century, they are given a second chance 150 years later when their souls return in a different context but with a love just as intense and true as before. In Brazil, the show reached 173 million viewers (according to Ibope) and generated around 654,000 comments on social networks.

Above Justice follows four different people arrested over a single night

Globo, more than most Latin American companies, has made an effort to internationalise its offering. While telenovelas are still the cornerstone of its output, the company is also at Natpe with a number of shorter shows. One is the 16-episode series Above Justice, headed by Avenida Brasil co-director Jose Luiz Villamarim. With its high-profile cast, the show follows four different people arrested over a single night in Brazil’s Atlantic coast city of Recife. Slowly, their storylines intertwine in a narrative turning on crime, justice and revenge. At home, the show was a big hit, securing 41 million viewers a day.

Also on Globo’s slate are 10-episode limited series Nothing Remains the Same, a love story set in the 1950s; and Supermax, a psychological thriller, also 10-episodes. The latter show will be especially interesting to international buyers because it has been produced in Spanish – as opposed to Globo’s native Portuguese. The goal is for the show to be sold to Hispanic US and Spanish-speaking South American markets, though the length means it should attract attention outside the Americas.

The Candidate follows a woman who challenges her corrupt politician husband

Vying for attention with Globo will be Mexican heavyweight Televisa, arguably the leading force in telenovela exports. Titles at Natpe include A Beloved Man, My Sweet Curse, In Love With Ramon, No Trace Of You, Love Divina and The Candidate. Between them, these titles cover the romance, comedy, melodrama and teen genres. Probably the most high profile is The Candidate, which follows a woman’s decision to challenge her corrupt politician husband for the role of president. There is, of course, also a love triangle involving an old flame.

Most of Televisa’s Natpe titles come in batches of 60 or 120 episodes. The exception is No Trace of You, a 10-part drama. In this one, Julia, a young paediatrician with a promising future, vanishes the night before her wedding. Five years later, a college student discovers a woman in a wedding gown, beaten, and covered in blood. It’s Julia – sans memory.

Iron Lady centres on a prosecutor tracking the drug lord who killed her father

One big theme in telenovelas has always been empowered women (The Candidate, La Patrona, La Duena etc). Mexico’s other major telenovela player TV Azteca Internacional (TVAI) has an example on its slate in the shape of Iron Lady, about a strong-willed prosecutor on the trail of the drug lord who killed her father. Also on the TVAI slate are titles such as Nothing Personal, Missing Bride, What Women Keep in Silence and Living To Race. The latter is a high-octane action drama that uses the legend of Mexican racing drivers Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez as the backdrop to a contemporary racing series.

Telemundo Internacional is the distribution arm of Hispanic US network Telemundo. Its Natpe slate includes hot new title El Chema, which started airing in December. A spin-off of the extremely popular and long-running drug baron series El Señor de los Cielos (The Lord of the Skies), the show follows Chema Venegas’ first years working in Mexico’s world of organised crime and his ascent to become the renowned cartel leader seen in the parent show. The decision to spin off a show is no real surprise given that El Señor de los Cielos has now racked up in the region of 340 episodes on Telemundo.

El Chema was spun off from popular and long-running series El Señor de los Cielos

Other titles on Telemundo’s slate include La Doña, Ambar and La Fan, which tells the story of a passionate fan of a famous telenovela actor. One day, fate brings the two together. At first, he hardly notices her, but before long he can’t imagine his life without her. La Doña, meanwhile, is based on Doña Barbara, a novel by Romulo Gallegos. Typically telenovela, it is the story of a strong-willed, ruthless woman who brings bad men to justice (another example of the fascination with strong women).

One big news story on the eve of Natpe was that Mexico-based distributor Comarex has taken control of the rights to Cisneros Media Distribution (CMD)’s catalogue outside the US and Spain. The deal is reckoned to involve around 30,000 hours of programming. Comarex will be at Natpe with CMD’s content as well as shows from Canal 13 in Chile and Canal 11 in Mexico.

A Thread of Blue Blood looks at the death of a financial expert and a journalist’s bid to solve the case

Key titles from Venezuela-based CMD include Entre Tu Amor Y Mi Amor (Separated by Love), which follows the story of a young woman, Sol, who leaves her country home for the city in search of a better life. Here she falls in love with Alejandro, not knowing he is the son of the evil woman who swindled her parents and had them killed when she was a baby. The show has already been licensed to US streaming platform Glosi.

From Canal 13 Chile, Comarex will have Preciosas (Runaways), the story of four women who meet while serving time in jail. They include Lorena, a 30-year-old who has been wrongly convicted of the murder of Juan Pablo, a co-worker. Lorena seeks to clear her name with the help of Alex, her defence lawyer and with whom she will (surprise!) have a romance.

The regional variety of shows at Natpe is enhanced by the presence of Telefe Internacional (Argentina), RCN (Colombia) and Caracol Internacional (Colombia). The former is in Miami with titles such as Dear Daddies, Love After Love, Educating Nina, The Return of Lucas and ratings hit Story of a Clan (35% share on Telefe in a weekday 23.00 slot). The latter continues the fascination with Latino crime families, telling the story of the real-life Puccio crime family. Strong Latino women is again the subject in telenovela Lioness, about a female textile factory worker who rallies her fellow worker to gain rights (while falling in love with the new factory owner along the way).

Caracol’s contribution to the fun is A Carnival Affair, Pursuit of a Dream and Surviving Pablo Escobar Alias JJ, the latter based on the book by John Jairo Velasquez, who was a lieutenant in the drugs lord’s gang. RCN, meanwhile, is promoting Ruled By Love, Azucar and A Thread of Blue Blood. The latter revolves around the death of a financial expert and the attempt by a journalist to discover the cause. All RCN titles are 70 episodes or more.

All of the above players are local producer-broadcasters, which tends to be the norm in the Latin American telenovela business. But there are a few notable exceptions. Sony Pictures Television, for example, has some celebrity-themed telenovelas nestling in amongst its slate of international dramas. These include Paquita La Del Barrio, about the life and career of Mexican singer Francicsa Viveros; and Blue Demon, the fictionalised life story of the famed Mexican wrestler.

Séries Mania 2016 Grand Prix winning crime drama El Marginal

Israel’s Dori Media is another company that long ago identified the global appeal of Latino-produced telenovelas. At Natpe, its key titles include Por Amarte Asi (Loving You), which follows the twists and turns in the life of a father and daughter who get a chance to fall in love with partners despite the difficult circumstances that brought them together. Echoing the trend identified above, Dori has also been exploring non-telenovela options. For example, at Natpe it will present the Séries Mania 2016 Grand Prix winning crime drama El Marginal, a coproduction from Underground Producciones and TV Publica. Created by Sebastian Ortega. El Marginal premiered on TV Publica in Argentina in June last year, where it has gone on to more than triple its timeslot ratings on the channel.

Another company that sits outside the norm is Argentine producer POL-KA, which will be at Natpe under its own banner. Titles on its slate include Quiero Vivir A Tu Lado, Los Ricos No Piden Permiso and Guapas. The latter, Cunning Girls in English, is a 174-episode drama about five women who lose all their savings after their bank closes down. They pull together to get back on track both financially and emotionally. POL-KA, it’s worth noting, is also a partner in Televisa’s Love Divina.

Finally, a word on Brazil’s number two channel Record TV, which is at Natpe with a slate of epic religious dramas including The Promised Land, Moses and the Ten Commandments, The Miracles of Jesus and Joseph from Egypt. An explanation for this emphasis is that Record TV is owned by colourful Brazilian billionaire businessman Edir Macedo, who is also founder and leader of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.

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Turkish series delight new audiences across the world

Spearheaded by Ottoman Empire-set shows such as Magnificent Century, Turkish drama is enjoying something of a renaissance.

Turkish drama wrapped 2014 with an estimated US$200m worth of global sales – its best figures ever, according to Izzet Pinto, founder and president of Global Agency, one of the country’s leading content distributors. Sales have risen from US$150m in 2013, while forecasts for next year are as high as $240-250m.

The country has been doubling its drama exports annually over the past five years, and 2014 saw Turkish drama take on Latin America, with sales to the region now rivalling stronger export markets such as the Middle East.

1
1001 Nights

For Global Agency, at least, it all started with a drama called 1001 Nights (Binbir Gece). Made by Turkish prodco TMC Film for Turkish net Kanal D, the show kickstarted the company’s growth and has now racked up sales to 56 countries worldwide and counting.

The poster boy for Turkish drama globally, however, is historical Ottoman drama Magnificent Century, dubbed the ‘Turkish Tudors.’ The TIMS Productions series, originally scripted by Meral Okay, ran to a fourth season on Star TV in 2014. It has aired in almost 70 countries across the globe, turning international growth into a boom for Turkish drama, says Pinto.

TIMS, founded in 2006 by Timur Savci, was originally set up to plug a gap in the market for local youth-skewing series. Selin Arat, its director of international operations, says Savci is now taking a break “to step back and look at the market and see what he can do next that would hopefully surpass Magnificent Century.” The company is currently working on sequel Ottoman Empire drama Kösem Sultan, due in fall 2015.

Fredrik af Malmborg, MD and co-founder of Swedish distributor Eccho Rights, is another early champion of Turkish drama. With approximately one-and-a-half billion people watching dubbed drama in primetime around the world, and US Anglo-Saxon drama having lost some of its attractiveness, the field has opened up to others, and “the next hit could basically come from anywhere,” he argues.

Eccho Rights’ breakthrough hit was Ezel from Ay Yapim. “We mentally put it in the cupboard as something with a very strong local flavour that you couldn’t sell abroad. But then I watched it,” says Malmborg. The drama went on to sell to more than 80 countries, including format rights to four or five different local adaptations, now in production.

Magnificent Century
Magnificent Century

Malmborg believes Turkey’s largely family-themed drama with universal themes, quality scripts and high production values hit the right note with non-Anglo-Saxon markets: “I felt that compared with Anglo-Saxon drama – usually some type of crime – Turkish dramas take family and emotional issues seriously, without excusing them as something else, and I really like that. Only a few Western countries have dared to buy Turkish drama, but I think that will change.”

Ay Yapim suspense drama The End (Son) offered Western Europe its first taste of Turkish drama when it launched on SVT2 in 2013 as a daily drama in access primetime at 19.30, doubling its slot average.

And script rights are doing brisk business in the West, with Eccho Rights generating format sales worth US$3m in the last year alone. Nine different versions of The End have either been optioned or are in production, including a pilot remake for Fox in the US. In addition to options for France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Holland, Mexico and India, a Russian version made by Russian World Studios is now on air.

Now that Turkey is selling its dramas to Latin America, the country has come full circle from the days of importing telenovelas back in the 1980s. But the genre has left its mark. “A whole generation of new producers were inspired by them and started to do their own thing,” says Malmborg.

Culture and language aside, there is a big difference in production values. Telenovelas are traditionally made on budgets of around US$50,000 per hour, but in Turkey this can very from between US$200,000 and US$600,000 per hour, Malmborg reveals. “Culturally, perhaps Turkey is probably better suited to delivering to a worldwide audience because it is somehow a mix of Europe and Asia, and not too far from our own culture,” he adds.

Said to be the largest single producer of drama outside of North America, ahead of individual Latin American countries and most probably Bollywood, Turkey pumps out up to 90 dramas a year on seven free-to-air channels. Each channel airs two dramas back to back in primetime across the week, and nearly all of them are long-running series comprised of 90-minute episodes. This drama frenzy continues for up to 38 weeks a year between September and early summer, while summer months also include dramas – those being piloted for the following season.

This industrial-scale drama output takes place in a highly competitive, fragmented television landscape, so dramas that fail to impress viewers are dropped within weeks. There’s a very tight relationship between viewers and the dramas’ ratings, with scripts shaped week by week depending on how audiences react.

“With period drama you do need some pre-production, but with contemporary drama sometimes the directors get the scripts the day before shooting,” explains Arat.

“It’s very different from the US where they commission 10 episodes back to back and then shoot the series like a film and hand it over to the broadcasters. In Turkey you can’t do that. It’s a highly competitive market and if your ratings aren’t going up after four or five weeks you might get cancelled. So you need to be writing along live according to the viewers’ reactions every week, not months before.”

The rise in Turkish drama’s global popularity has inevitably boosted its bankability, for the productions themselves, the production companies and the sector as a whole as a target for potential takeovers by international players.

“We’ve been working on a number of Turkish series and revenues have grown every year, starting with US$120,000 per episode. The last series we sold was for US$400,000 per episode,” says Malmborg.

Arat adds: “It used to be that the broadcaster took ownership of the project before this drama boom started, but with these developments most of the big production companies like TIMS were able to negotiate better terms. Now we’re able to just to licence the rights to the broadcaster for a limited period, after which all the rights revert back to us.”

However, takeovers have yet to materialise in what is a largely non-vertically integrated market of broadcasters, producers and distributors. “Until now I’ve been surprised that not much has happened in terms of mergers,” says Pinto. “Some funds have approached producers and even some big companies looked to acquire, but it didn’t happen, so I think these big majors or big funds haven’t seen the potential yet. I believe they should look closer because I’m really surprised that, in such a booming market, mergers haven’t happened.”

Arat says her production company, one of the top three in Turkey, has had several approaches from international firms “but when you give them the breakdown of what the company is worth, it’s more than they expected and they take a step back. If they pay enough, production companies won’t say no.”

However, some are now questioning how sustainable Turkey’s largely self-sufficient drama model will be in the long term. While new markets like Latin America are joining the Turkish drama club, the cost of acquired Turkish drama is rising abroad, and local productions are becoming more attractive (and cost-effective) to regions such as Eastern Europe. Pinto himself says growth of drama exports is expected to level out in 2016.

Turkey’s national audience measurement system has also been revamped. It now incorporates more rural viewing tastes, and this has steered the overall profile of the panels towards an appetite for more conservative family-skewing content, rather than the edgier family series with greater global appeal, argues Pinto.

“For this reason, lower-quality and lower-budget productions are receiving good ratings, whereas million-dollar-budget dramas can fail,” he says, limiting the pipeline for potentially exportable dramas. “Our company is a strong brand and we pick up the best sellers, so as long as we can secure a couple of strong titles each year we’ll do just fine.”

Resurrection
Resurrection

Annually, it’s only a few high-end Turkish dramas that really sell well abroad. Of 40 dramas in Global Agency’s catalogue, 10 are selling well and five very well, says Pinto. Popular newcomers include a drama on surrogate motherhood, Broken Pieces (Paramparca). Launched on Star TV in Decemer, it’s Endemol Turkey’s first locally scripted project, serving up a new take on the Turkish family drama. Global Agency is also selling script rights to selected projects, such as its recent deal with Sony for remake rights to TIMS’ crime drama Game of Silence for NBC.

Public broadcaster TRT, which turned 50 this year, is underway with a revised strategy to broaden and renew its drama output, moving into areas that commercial broadcasters don’t do, says Mehmet Demirhan, deputy head of the television department. Demirhan is responsible for three divisions, including acquisitions for 15 TV channels, sales and international coproductions.

TRT launches around seven new dramas every season, all of which premiere on flagship entertainment channel TRT1, and Demirhan has high hopes for a pair of new period dramas that attracted interest from 80 buyers across 60 countries when they were unveiled last autumn.

Resurrection of Ertuğrul Gazi, which follows the father of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, launched on TRT1 in December, topping the television ratings among AB, educated high-income viewers. The show has been labelled the best breakthrough Turkish TV series of the 2014 season, with the local press comparing it to Game of Thrones.

Filinta - the "Ottoman Sherlock Holmes"
Filinta – the “Ottoman Sherlock Holmes”

Filinta, a detective drama set during the Ottoman period, is “an unusual genre for Turkey,” says Demirhan. “We can call it an Ottoman Sherlock Holmes.” It premiered in late December on TRT1.

“Our difference as a public TV service means we can go in different directions,” Demirhan asserts. “We have a huge archive, which has not yet been fully discovered by the international market. But I’m sure we’ll be able to do this as we change our strategy. We’re now collaborating with Global Agency and ITV Intermedya, for instance, both successful sales agencies, and we will explore the potential in full, also investing in different genres.”

For a number of reasons, coproductions have played no part in developing Turkey’s drama sector thus far. Global Agency’s Pinto doesn’t believe in them because “not a single one has happened, and that shows it’s very difficult.”

There are language barriers too. “In our series we don’t want to hear foreigners dubbed or subtitled, our people want pure Turkish products,” Pinto adds. “Production companies have grown strongly in Turkey so they don’t need to coproduce for financial reasons.”

However, TRT has other ambitions. Demirhan says it now has a couple of (as yet undisclosed) coproduction projects it is hoping to move ahead with in 2015, and is currently in discussions with a UK broadcaster, which could pave the way for a copro between Turkey, the UK and Dubai.

“The initial idea is to produce the next big global show like Game of Thrones or Vikings,” says Demirhan. “I think coproduction will be one of the solutions to the sustainability of Turkish drama and acceptance of Turkish drama in the global marketplace. We believe in that and are moving in that direction.”

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