Ekin Koyuncu, Executive Director, Kanal D International, spoke to ttvnews about how the distributor was able to face the difficulties of the last couple of years and, in the process, discover a renewed appetite from audiences for more light-hearted stories, which they answered with titles like Recipe of Love and Twist of Fate.
Kanal D International (KDI) is arriving in Cannes with some very exciting additions to a deep and attractive catalogue that has conquered audiences all over the world, even during these difficult couple of years.
While Spain keeps expanding as a market for its dramas, both new titles and library ones –without forgetting the case of Alba, the Spanish adaptation of Fatmagul, distributed internationally by KDI-, the company is looking for the next big “boom”, setting its aim in creating it in Russia or Asia.
These goals are powered by some of the most important Turkish dramas in the market, including Hekimoğlu, the successful adaptation of Dr. House, and one of the new titles for Mipcom 2021, the still in-production Three Sisters, to name just a few.
And at the same time, there’s another genre that has been growing during the past few years: romantic comedies. As a response from the audiences to the hardships of the pandemic, light-hearted series have become more sought-after than before, and KDI has some great titles in their catalogue, like Twist of Fate, Recipe of Love and Love Trap.
“While strong dramas are still in demand, what I see and experience from our recent sales is that, because of the pandemic, people are shifting towards more optimistic, feel-good stories,” explains Ekin Koyuncu, Executive Director, Kanal D International. “Romantic comedies became the breaking point to the stress we are all experiencing in our daily lives. And with our strong romantic comedy lineup we are eager to expand our reach worldwide.”
What is your early evaluation of 2021? Are library titles still being sought-after at a higher than average rate during the pandemic, as it was the case during 2020?
This past year has been a huge challenge for everyone, but as a team we were able see the opportunities quickly and determine our priorities. At the beginning of the pandemic, people could not foresee many aspects, how it would impact traditional broadcasters. Productions and daily formats were paused, this led broadcasters to lose their advertising revenues and seek changes in their plans. This quickly reflected to their yearly budgets on acquisitions and related expenses such as marketing and localization.
In these circumstances, while keeping the expenses under control and maintaining the slots running with good performance, many territories went after strong re-runs. We have been underlining the strength of our all-time favorites, such as Forbidden Love, Fatmagul, and Time Goes By for many years; once again, the strength of our library provided us a much wider playground.
What new titles would you be introducing at Mipcom 2021?
We added two stress-relievers to our catalogue, Recipe of Love and Twist of Fate, and we will be having a new premium drama by Süreç Film, titled Üç Kız Kardeşler (Three Sisters). The new drama will be the adaptation of a novel written by foremost Turkish author İclal Aydın and it is the first of a trilogy series that has broken sales records since the first day it was published, in 2018. The production still going on and we will be sharing the details very soon.
Do you think digital events are here to stay alongside the returns of some markets?
It has been so long since we have met with our friends and colleagues from the industry and really missed our face-to-face conversations; we are definitely looking forward to it. During this year we had some online markets, the technology and philosophy is well-established, and works to give the best service possible for the business to stay in touch and on track, but for my experience it wont be a substitute for in-person markets. With the increased percentage of vaccinated people, I was optimistic from the fall season, but it seems like the virus is still strong, with different variations and we need to seek ways to protect ourselves by taking all cautions, so travelling long distances is still one of our main concerns.
How important is it for the company to have closed deals for Fatmagul and New Life with Globo?
Brazil has been a territory where Turkish Drama had a limited penetration since there is a very strong local production. We have, in the past, licensed some of our dramas to the mainstream broadcasters and pay TV channels. Globo is the largest media group and we are happy to see them strongly believe in our content.
What can you tell us about Spain, with the recent premiere of Time Goes By? How do you analyze the Spanish market after the last few years of Turkish dramas success there?
Back in 2018, KDI sold one of the most successful stories to Spain, Fatmagul. Since then, our relations in Spain has grown, licensing more than 12 titles. It has been an amazing experience to see the growth of Turkish stories that have captivated the Spanish audience, not only in thematic channels but also on main channels. This proves that our well-told stories, extraordinary productions with exquisite locations, look-alike cast and emotional family stories are the base of the success of Turkish productions. We are also extremely excited to present Spanish remake of Fatmagul, Alba, to all our international buyers.
Broadcast as Ciudad Cruel, KDI’s premium drama Ruthless City has also turned into a phenomenon in Spain. With a 3.4% share and more than 600,000 viewers on average since its premiere and Ruthless City also became the most watched series of thematic channels in 2021 and the second most watched Nova series in the historical ranking of Turkish fiction broadcast in Spain since its landing in 2018.
Time Goes By is on air on Nova at the moment as Mar de amores. The series is a period drama set in Turkey during the 60s and 70s. It’s a great title in which celebrity names of Turkish dramas nowadays made their debut, like Aras Bulut İynemli, Farah Zeynep Abdullah, Nilperi Şahinkaya. Although it’s been a short while since its premiere, the feedback of the audience is positive.
Is there another country or region you see as following a trajectory similar to Spain?
We believe that a similar success will come from Asia. We are working heavily on monetizing our content in all windows.
In the past you talked about expanding the penetration in Russia and Asia. What makes these territories/regions more difficult to engage with than LatAm or MENA?
Actually, both regions have the same common difficulties. The first one is piracy. It very wide and cant be controlled. The second is the power of local productions. Both regions have a great number of producers depending on the traditional audience demand and habits. Our priority is to create an environment where we can introduce our stories and gain the interest of the audiences. We are currently supporting this goal by getting into both territories with VOD and format rights.
What other recent deals would you like to highlight?
Cataloged as “The Best Remake in Turkish TV History” by the Turkish audience, Hekimoğlu continues its journey. It has been licensed to Afghanistan, India and Uzbekistan in Asia; Kosovo and Romania in CEE; Israel in MENA; and Uruguay in Latin America. In addition, our latest rom-coms, Twist of Fate and Recipe of Love have a huge demand and we will announce the deals in a very short time.
Has the success of Kanal D Dramas changed your international distribution strategy at all?
Kanal D Drama is a channel reaching pay TV viewers that are demanding more Turkish content. Kanal D Drama was the outcome of our huge library and with this very strong product, we are reaching an additional audience. The strategy is to reach every single viewer possible via direct distribution or through our channel or apps.