During the “Spotlight on Turkey” seminar held at January’s Content Americas in Miami, University of Georgia professor Carolina Acosta-Alzuru offered an academic analysis of the appeal that Turkish TV series have for Latin American audiences. The seminar also analyzed something that is becoming clear among producers the world over: the incongruity between co-production and co-financing.

It is known that production companies want to produce their own developed content. It is also known that a project has to be presented to an outlet with financing in place, which means that financial partners are always needed. Therefore, wouldn’t it be more logical to be talking about co-financing instead of co-production?

Plus, the co-financing model has proven to be a more attractive option than co-production –– which in Europe often turns into so-called “Europudding,” a mish-mash of many elements –– as it bypasses the legal frameworks that make co-productions difficult to navigate.

Still, the question remains: In how many forms can co-financing take place?

To expand on this topic VideoAge called on two Turkish producers/distributors who spoke at the aforementioned Content Americas seminar (Erdem Seckin, CEO of OGM Pictures, an Istanbul-based company that also runs its OGM Universe distribution division, and Kerim Emrah Turna, founder and managing director of MediaHub, an Istanbul-based production and distribution company). Separately, VideoAge reached out to Robin Philip, founder of Geophil, an Indian national based in Dubai who recently completed a joint venture with MediaHub for the upcoming Turkish drama series Alaca.

Also sitting on the seminar panel were two reps of TV outlets that have programmed Turkish TV series: Deniz Sasmaz Oflaz, CEO of BluTV, a Warner Bros.-acquired Istanbul-based streaming channel, and Jimmy Arteaga, COO of Hemisphere Media Group, which also runs WAPA-TV in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

From what was said during the presentation it seems more logical to talk about co-financing instead of co-production, and it was in this spirit that VideoAge posed a few questions to Philip, whose Geophil was originally established in 1985 as a book distributor, and only later expanded into IP development.

Philip started by explaining that “co-financing as a concept has evolved over the years. Back in time, the most popular co-financing option used to be as a debt instrument where the co-financers get their principal and a fixed return within a fixed period of time with no access to revenue or IP share. Production houses found it difficult to attract financing from banks and investment funds and hence this was a preferred option, and the co-financers were typically high net worth individuals or moneylenders.”

He continued: “Co-financers today are mainly companies that either own a media platform somewhere or have a media distribution business or media-focused venture capital funds. We see models that have a mix of co-financing in exchange for certain rights, as well as a share of revenue.”

Seckin, CEO of OGM Pictures and OGM Universe, further explained: “The most common form [of co-financing] involves cash investments, where one party provides funds for the project in exchange for a share of profits or revenue. Another form is in-kind contributions, where goods or services are provided instead of cash. Co-financing can [also] involve the exchange of distribution rights. In this scenario, one party provides cash in exchange for the rights to distribute the project in a specific region. Profit-sharing is another form, where one party receives a percentage of the profits generated by the project instead of a fixed return on investment.”

On a side note, OGM’s press agent pointed out that the closest thing to a co-venture the company has engaged in was for Omer, a TV series produced by OGM for Turkey’s Star TV and distributed by Eccho Rights. The 2023 series was adapted from the Israeli TV drama Shtisel.

MediaHub’s Turna added an extra element: “Unlike traditional investment models, co-financing opportunities in co-production often offer a shorter ROI time, which is beginning to attract new investments from outside the industry. This influx of external investment not only expands opportunities but also enhances output and quality, catalyzing growth and innovation within the co-production ecosystem.”

To Seckin, the ideal partnership is when all parties “have a say in key decisions regarding the project, including the script, cast, and budget. This helps ensure that everyone’s input is considered and that the project reflects the vision and goals of all partners. A successful partnership is built on trust and respect, and this can only be achieved through open and honest communication.”

And, added Turna, “the ideal partnership leverages the strengths of each participant to create innovative and impactful content.”

Geophil’s Philip took this a step further: “The first step to forging a good partnership is to agree on a forecast by market for the revenue that could be generated for a particular [piece of] content. This will help ensure that each partner is getting a share of distribution rights in line with their investment.”

But Philip also believes that “involvement in script, cast, and budget should be limited to the pre-production stage. Thereafter, one should trust the instincts of the local producer who is based in the market where the content is being produced. Else, the product can lose its natural flavor. So it’s critical that all partners develop a trust with the line producer before signing and let them lead the creative process so you retain the local essence of the project.”

Similarly, Seckin feels that “it’s important to maintain the core vision of the project and ensure that any changes or suggestions align with that vision. In terms of the budget, partners should have a say in how financial resources are allocated to ensure that the project stays on track financially. However, it’s essential to establish clear budgetary guidelines and ensure that all decisions are made with the project’s best interests in mind.”

Finally, Turna summarized the discussion with this: “Turkish content enjoys a privileged position thanks to its global outreach, and with its distinctive and recognizable traits, presents a particularly compelling opportunity for investment when partnered with collaborators who understand its appeal.”

Going back to the Content Americas’ seminar, Professor Acosta-Alzuru acknowledged after a post-seminar talk with VideoAge that her presentation did not cover the part of the worldwide success of Turkish TV series that had to do with their massive and well-targeted marketing campaigns and high visibility at international TV trade events.

(By Dom Serafini)

Audio Version (a DV Works service)

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