Discop West Asia is in full swing (it ends Thursday), and VideoAge is reporting live from Istanbul. We’ll have a larger review in our MIP-TV issue, but here’s your first, straight-from-the-market floor report.

Basic Lead’s Patrick Zuchowicki announced on the first day of Discop West Asia (formerly known as Discop Istanbul) that the third annual event has seen a 20 percent increase in attendance as compared to last year, bringing the total to 748 attendees.

Stands and meeting stations were very busy from Day One. Distributors confirmed packed schedules and the same was true on the buyers’ side: Mohammad Ahmadi of Afghanistan’s Elena Productions is meeting with several Turkish and Latin American distributors to shop for new series. Despite censorship issues, local TV stations (about 50 in Afghanistan alone), driven by viewer demand, air commercial content. Sometimes it’s done without acquiring the rights — and piracy is a big issue in these territories. Many stations dub the product themselves.

The conference portion of the event kicked off with a two-part session on drama production and distribution in Arabic countries in the morning, followed by conferences on formats and co-productions in the afternoon. The conference venue has been moved to a spacious ballroom in the Dolmabahce wing of the Ceylan Intercontinental Hotel, next to the registration area.

Nabil Kazan, a pan-Arab advertising pioneer, introduced the seminars, and emphasized how there has been a 100 percent increase in production of Arabic drama from 2010 to 2012, the market has also seen 160 new Arabic satellite TV channels within two years, and 80 million Arabic households with access to satellite. Total acquisitions of foreign programs in 2012 added up to U.S.$200 million.

A new trend in the area is to acquire popular novela formats (a successful example being Ruby from Televisa) and adapt them for the Arabic market.

On Wednesday, Telemundo Internacional’s Xavier Aristimuño, was part of a special panel that analyzes TV content development and co-production with Latin America. “Telenovelas and drama series no longer have geographical or cultural borders, and the format and co-production thematic is essential in today’s global television. Our presence in Istanbul reflects our commitment to continue working on such projects,” Aristimuño said in a release. Panelists discussed the growing trend of establishing strategic alliances between Latin American and West Asian producers.

Telemundo’s Melissa Pillow, for one, is very pleased with this market, and seems to think that her company’s decision to send two people (she and Katarina Etchison) instead of just one this year was warranted to better handle the busy schedule of meetings.

And of course, what would a showbusiness event be without some parties? The opening night cocktail party, sponsored by Kanal D was followed by an Orange Party sponsired by ATV. Late night on Wednesday was the Hangover Party, sponsored by Global Agency.

One logistical snafu we’ve seen is the large construction in Taksim Square, right next to the market venue. Traffic is oppressive, and it’s been very difficult to walk anywhere from/to the hotel without risking your life.

Another interesting thing to note is that although the euro is widely accepted (even by taxicabs), people prefer paying in Turkish lire because they can get better exchange rates.

And there seems to be a bit of a market rivalry brewing at Discop (though it doesn’t have anything to do with the current event). Staff from a new Istanbul TV event (ITVF — Istanbul TV Forum & Fair) is at Discop West Asia to recruit participants for their own event, which is being held June 20-22 and conflicts with NATPE Budapest.

And on the subject of NATPE Budapest, it seems that several small- and medium-sized distributors are not happy with the fact that NATPE Budapest — now being handled by NATPE and not Basic Lead — has attracted most of the U.S. studios, changing the nature of the market. The smaller companies fear that buyers will screen new U.S. TV season fare instead of indie product. This issue could also affect Eastern European attendance at the L.A. Screenings, if the companies choose to save money and wait for the studios to come to them in Budapest.

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