Turkish series, also known as Turkish dizis or soap operas, have become a global hit all around the world. They are now second only to the U.S. series, reaching more than 700 million viewers in about 150 countries.
There are several factors that make Turkish soap operas distinct: They are family centered, although love triangles are very common. Each episode runs about two hours and they are mostly filmed in beautiful historical neighborhoods of Istanbul. Interestingly enough, organized tours visiting these neighborhoods have become popular bringing tourists from around the world.
The first success story of the Turkish film industry was when MBC, a Dubai-based TV Station, started airing Gümüs (Silver) via satellite in the Arab world in 2005. After the enormous success of Gümüs in the Middle East and North Africa, another Turkish series Binbir Gece (1001 Nights) became the first global hit for the Turkish Film Industry in 2006 and was aired in 80 countries.
After the Middle East, the Turkish soap opera craze spread into the Balkans in 2005. Yabanci Damat (Foreign Groom), a love story between a Turkish girl and a Greek guy, was a huge success in Greece.
Following the Foreign Groom, Binbir Gece (1001 Nights) was shown from October 2009 on and broke the record by drawing 1.1 million Greek viewers each time. Even during the opening game of of the World Cup in 2010, Binbir Gece captured 30.5 percent of viewers, overshadowing the game between France and Uruguay – the first time that a soap opera ever beating the ratings of a soccer match in Greece. These huge success stories of Yabanci Damat and Binbir Gece paved the way for new Turkish soap operas entering the Greek market: New Turkish soap operas Ask-i Memnu (Forbidden Love) and Gumus (Silver) started airing in Greek channels soon after.
The strong interest of Greek viewers in Turkish soap operas is seen as the indication of strong similarity between the two cultures by many observers. The rapprochement that started between Greece and Turkey after the earthquake in 1999 turned the two countries once enemies into strategic partners and the Turkish soap operas definitely helped strenthen this friendship between the two nations. This new friendship also encouraged a huge increase in the number of Greek tourists visiting Turkey in the following years.
Turkish soap operas have been enjoying great popularity all throughout the Balkans, including but not limited to Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia Herzegovina. Afterwards, some of these series have also started being shown in some Central European countries such as Slovakia and the Czech Republic. This overwhelming interest inevitably increased the interest for Turkey and the Turkish language in the region.
Turkish soap operas first entered the Latin American market in 2014, when Mega TV of Chile started airing Binbir Gece. Not surprisingly, it became the most-watched program of the year in the whole country within the same year. Today, there are 51 different Turkish series being aired throughout Latin America, making it the strongest market for Turkish soap operas in the world.
The staggering popularity of Turkish dramas all around the world draws thousands of tourists to Istanbul. Tour operators organize special tours to movie sets in scenic neighborhoods of Istanbul, where the series are filmed.