TV Dramas From Turkey Draw Hollywood's Eye

The "24"-ish "20 Minutes" sold to 30 territories within two months of its launch.

Slick, big budget shows like "Magnificent Century" ("The Tudors" with turbans) and "20 Minutes" (think "24") are commanding higher licensing fees in some territories than U.S. series imports: "We're all learning Turkish," says one exec.

This story first appeared in the July 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Looking for the next hot TV drama? Head to Istanbul.

Sure, Israel, which produced the original versions of Showtime's Homeland and HBO's In Treatment, still is a go-to foreign territory for network execs. But Turkish TV is heating up fast, fed by the country's rapid growth and cash-rich channels. While Turkish series used to be telenovela-style soaps, its new crop of shows are slick and big-budget (up to $1 million per episode), and they cover a range of genres from the Ottoman Empire period epic Magnificent Century (think The Tudors with turbans) to 20 Minutes, a 24-esque actioner about a man trying to save his wife. Turkish dramas already own primetime across the Middle East and much of Central Europe. There, an episode of top Turkish shows such as the mystery thriller The End of Mercy can command license fees several times that of most U.S. series imports.

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"When we got the first screener for a Turkish series on our desk, we all thought, 'Huh? Turkish TV?' " says Dragana Kos, an acquisitions exec at Croatian network RTL Televizija. "It wasn't even on our radar. It is now. We're all learning Turkish." As are Hollywood suits.

Disney has dived into the Turkish TV market with local-language remakes of Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice. A Turk take on The O.C. is set to bow in September. But the more interesting traffic is going the other way. Earlier this year, Sander/Moses Productions, the shingle behind CBS' Ghost Whisperer, optioned The End from Turkish producers Ay Yapim and broadcaster ATV.

Producers of 20 Minutes are in negotiations with a mini-major for an American remake of the series. End of Mercy and Fox TV Turkey's upcoming drama Black Rose also are generating remake interest. Can the Turkish Homeland be far behind?