Turkish Dizis, Weekend Special

Understanding Turkey’s TV Ratings System

My love affair with Turkish series began in 2016, when a native commercial television channel[1] broadcast Fatmagül’ün Suçu Ne?[2] dubbed in Spanish. I found that series so different and powerful that it prompted me to search for other Turkish series to watch. It was hard to find them until last year I found a Facebook Group dedicated to a Turkish series[3] and that changed my whole perspective about this genre. Through the community, not only did I discover where to find the episodes with English subtitles, I also found myself so immersed in the series that I started to watch it live in the original Turkish language.

As Erkenci Kus, one of the most popular Turkish romcoms from the summer of 2018, started sharing its weekly viewer ratings on social media, I got very curious about how the Turkish audience responded to the series. My intrigue got me to start posting weekly graphics with the show ratings[4], not only for that group, but for other groups from other series that I had started watching.

As many of you, I had no clue about how the TV ratings works. I made the ratings graphics because members of the group were interested to know how their favorite series was faring. In so doing, I got very curious about how poor ratings led to some series getting cancelled, sometimes with unresolved endings. I researched deeply about the Turkish TV ratings system and I found that this is a very complex subject that involves channels, productions companies and advertising companies. Without getting into a deep analysis, my interest is to give you a simple understanding of the Turkish TV Ratings system and how the post-air results affect dizi[5] productions.

First let me give you a quick history of Turkish TV and when TV audience measurement started. In 1968, Turkey’s public broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) broadcast Turkey’s first test program from Ankara. In 1971, TRT’s broadcasts reached a national state after linking Izmir and Istanbul stations as second and third broadcasting sources. Due to legal restrictions, TRT remained as the only institution allowed to broadcast in Turkey until 1990. During these years, few thematic channels were opened by TRT to broadcast dedicated content, such as sports, news etc. In 1989, another TV channel, Magic Box Star1, was founded in Germany and broadcast for Turkish audiences through satellite, becoming the first private television channel that broadcast in Turkish language. Since then, there are 61 private national channels in Turkey and several new online streaming platforms such as BluTV and puhuTV. In 1992, TIAK (Televizyon Izleme Arastırmaları Anonim Sirketi – TV Audience Measurement Committee) was founded to organize and examine viewing habits. For this, they partnered with AGB Nielsen[6], but since 2012 TIAK A.S is responsible for all Turkish TV ratings system.[7]

For audience measurement, TIAK A.S utilizes a people meter that is an integrated system consisting of six stages[8]. These stages lead to placing a device in the focus household in 40 provinces[9] that records the relevant viewing by pushing the button allocated for them on the controller once viewing starts and ends. This operation is performed by the software, by equipping each people meter in the home with GPRS[10]. This data is processed to create program ratings and channel ratings within a particular period of time, with the inclusion of reports on the viewing share[11] of certain stations or programs, the number and ranking of the audience that view certain programs and/or content broadcast during a particular time of the day, as well as the cumulative audience viewing of certain programs or commercials on a single or multiple channels and the time and frequency of viewing. The data is confirmed and weighed by a demographics group called Socioeconomic Statuses (SES), and appears as something like this:

 

The audience is segmented into classes that represent different layers of the society in a consecutive order according to their members’ education, age, workplace, income, location etc. The Turkish TV ratings system SES consists of six different classes, which are: A, B, C1, C2, D and E. Classes A and B represent the most educated group and classes D and E represent the least educated in terms of diploma degrees. Also, while half of class A and B consists of paid workers who are also qualified experts such as lawyers, doctors and engineers, class D and E consists of unemployed and retired citizens. On the other hand, C1 and C2 represent upper and lower middle classes and considered to have the highest purchasing power.

The Audience measurement company arranges the data collected in categories, that reflects the household and ages. As in the above photos, we only see three (3) of the twelve (12) categories and these are Total, AB, ABC1 +20. The AB is the category for the Upper class and middle-class audience. ABC1 +20 is the category for the working class and high-income audience. Total is the ratio of Audience of all categories (including the ones excluded from the daily charts). The data is pivotal for channels to get advertisements and sponsors. Since most of the dizis are broadcast on commercial television, advertisement is essential. Commercial broadcasting is primarily based on the practice of airing radio advertisements and television advertisements for profit. This is in contrast to public broadcasting, which receives government subsidies and usually does not have paid advertising interrupting the show. Due to the strong correlation between the ratings and the advertisement revenues, broadcasters assess new propositions meticulously before deciding on what new production they will choose to broadcast.

There are more than 80 TV production companies in the Turkish dizi industry. The competition is strong, and ratings are the way channels determine how long a dizi will be on air. According to a study by a prestigious management consulting firm, TV broadcasters look for some key elements: Production company’s financial strength and reputation, famous cast, scenario (screenwriters and storyline), among others. Broadcasters provide support through scheduling of the show, especially against competing shows during prime time, and frequency of promotion.[12]

 

Since the competition is cut-throat, channels generally contract with the producers to air a dizi for 13 episodes, but, like me, you surely wonder why are some series cancelled even before we get to 13 episodes? The fact is that broadcasters reserve the right to cancel a series at any moment if the ratings do not meet expected standards. What they do is to closely monitor the initial performance of the series for the first 5 or 6 episodes. If the ratings are poor, the production ends up being cancelled unless it is a project that is strongly trusted by the broadcaster. After the 6th episode threshold is passed, a second threshold is 13th episode and, as such, ratings performance per episode remains important until the 13th episode. Upon any unsatisfactory performance, broadcasters can cancel the current project and invest in another one at any time.

Broadcasters refrain from risking the fall of rating scores followed by the potential fall in advertisement revenues caused by an unsuccessful series that is aired on prime time. A recent example of this is the series Azize from Süreç Film on Kanal D. Azize satisfies some of the key elements for a possible success. They count a great cast (Bugra Gülsoy and Hande Erçel as leading actors ) and a great scenario by the writing team of Emre Özdür, Basar Basaran, Meryem Gültabak, but their choice of broadcast day was poor and it shows in the ratings since the first episode (as per the ratings charts shared above). They premiered on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, competing in the charts against a mafia series called Eskıya Dünyaya Hükümdar Olmaz from Atv Channel and Pana Yapim, that at the time was in their 5th season, episode 149. The result was clear in the ratings chart. Azize ratings of the first episode were Total: #11/ 3.85; AB: #9/ 3.29; ABC1 +20: #8 /3.50. This rating raised a red flag and Kanal D started to monitor each episode ratings closely. At the end of 6th episode, the ratings had fallen further to Total: #12/3.02; AB: #13 / 2.35; ABC1 +20: #15 /2.43 [13]. Obviously, they didn’t make the channel’s threshold and consequently the series was cancelled without an ending.

Another great example of a series that complies with all the elements to make a successful series but at the end was deeply affected by ratings was Erkenci Kus (“EK”), a production of Gold Film for Star TV. The series started with Ayse Kutlu as lead scenarist, and Can Yaman and Demet Özdemir as the leading couple. The series chose Tuesday June 26, 2018 at 20:00 as its broadcast date. The ratings for their premier were good: Total: #5/ 3.94; AB: #2 / 6.41; ABC1 +20: #3/ 6.26 and after that they led in the charts as the number one series on Tuesday, reaching their highest ratings on episode 11 (Total: #1/ 9.18; AB: #1 / 9.88).

 

Right after the 11th episode, ratings started to drop in % of viewers per category, but still held its #1 position. The producers switched the broadcast day to Saturday starting on Episode 13, and announced a change in scenarist to Aslı Zengin, starting in episode 18. During her reign (Episode 18-38), the series struggled to retain a good % of viewers and the ranking was volatile, moving constantly through #2 to #3 position. EK reached its lowest ratings for Episode 36, Total: #9 /4.72; AB: #10/ 3.95; ABC1 +20: #10 /4.35. At this point, Gold Film announced the return of Ayse Kutlu as screenwriter. Although she returned the series to the fairy tale like love story, the ratings didn’t rise enough to please the channel. Nevertheless, having full faith in the project, the broadcaster again decided to change broadcast day and screenwriters. Therefore, on Episode 45 they changed back from Saturdays to Tuesdays and brought Saygin Delibas and Fethi Kantarcı as the new screenwriters to start on Episode 47.

The broadcaster gave them a short threshold of two episodes to improve performance, that they could not meet. Episodes 45 and 46 were low (see graphics above). Ultimately, the broadcaster announced the cancellation at Episode 51, with a lovely ending although it felt rushed due to the storyline the latest scenarists had been building upon. But EK had garnered a great global following during its tenure, and easily exceeded the 13-episode threshold, making it a good candidate to export to other countries. This is where the production company began to see substantial revenues from the project.

As you can see, the key point of the successful run of a dizi is greatly dependent on an audience that remains captivated, leading to good advertising revenues. In a fiercely competitive environment with a limited broadcasting schedule and limited numbers of TV channels, dizis are victims of frequent cancellations due to poor ratings driven by the focus households. Often it is not about bad acting, bad cast or bad storyline, it is just about what leads to good advertising dollars and broadcaster’s faith in the show.


[1] WAPAtv Puerto Rico[2] Ay Yapim production for Kanal D with Engin Akyürek and Beren Saat in the leading roles. This series was first broadcast in Turkey through September 2010 to June 2012 [3] Erkenci Kus for English Speakers [4] Rating is the percentage (0 to 100) of the Media Market that will likely be exposed to your advertisement. Rating is an estimate based on past performance often sourced from surveys.[5] Dizi is the Turkish word for series. [6] A Global Audience Measurement Company https://www.nielsentam.tv/[7] SOCIAL TV RATINGS: A MULTI-CASE ANALYSIS FROM TURKISH TELEVISION INDUSTRY by ERDEM AKIN TEMEL[8] http://tiak.com.tr/en/tv%20measurement/television-audience-measurement-in-turkey[9] http://tiak.com.tr/en/tv%20measurement/the-technical-infrastructure-used-in-panel-operations[10] General Packet Radio Services, a technology for radio transmission of small packets of data, especially between mobile phones and the Internet.[11] Share is expressed as a percentage of the audience that was watching TV at the time[12] World’s most colorful screen TV series sector in Turkey, Deloitte Firm 2014[13] Drop in point in each category between episode 1 & 6 was Total: -0.83; AB:-0.91; ABC1 +20: -1.07.



Article copyright by North America TEN and Maria Teresa

All pictures and video clips belong to their original owners, where applicable. No copyright infringement intended. Please ask for permission before reprints.

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