Turkish soap operas, also known as Turkish series, 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 historical beautiful districts 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.
The Turkish soap opera craze expanded into the Balkans from the Middle East in 2005 hitting Greece first. Yabanci Damat (Foreign Groom), a love story between a Turkish girl and a Greek guy, was a huge success in 2005. 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 day. 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 Greek and the Turkish culture by many observers. The rapprochement that started between Greece and Turkey in 1999 turned the two countries once enemies into strategic partners. During Turkish Prime Minister’s last visit, Turkey and Greece had a joint cabinet meeting and formed a High Level Cooperation Council between the two countries.
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.