19 DEC 2023

Deniz Sasmaz Oflaz: “It is not only about making content travel, but also the know-how”

The CEO of BluTV talks about the growing strategy for the Turkish SVOD platform, which is one of Turkey's most prominent digital streaming services.

19 DEC 2023

Mustafa Alpay Guler and Deniz Sasmaz Oflaz

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BluTV is a subscriber video-on-demand entertainment platform for Turkish and Arabic-speaking audiences and is Turkey's most prominent digital platform. Deniz Sasmaz Oflaz, CEO of BluTV, who was present at Dubai International Content Market 2023 alongside Mustafa Alpay Guler, Saga Productions Board Member, talked about the growing strategy for the platform.

▸  What is your role in the company?
“I am the CEO of BluTV, which is the first local SVOD platform in Turkey. I joined the company in 2016, first handling content acquisition for a long time and then becoming Head of Content. We were licensing content from around the world, but we also had our own Originals, which are slightly different from the typical Turkish dramas. We exploited various genres, dramas, thrillers, action, or horror.”

▸  How did the pandemic impact BluTV?
“The pandemic was significant for all SVOD platforms. We started talking with Discovery back then, and after one year, we closed a strategic partnership with them when they first acquired 35% of BluTV. In the meantime, we kept producing our own Originals, but because of the competition in many territories, we had issues regarding increasing production costs. Therefore, in the past two years, we really focused on finding co-production partners. We opt for a model where we produce the titles in Turkish and mostly launch them as BluTV Originals.”

▸  What potential do you see in co-productions?
“Actually, when we started seeing the potential of co-productions, we decided to create another company, which was launched at the beginning of this year, called Saga. This sister company focuses more on joint ventures, co-productions, co-financing, and co-broadcasting. It does not have to be only for BluTV, as its service is actually more about the Turkish know-how on content, whether it is in the Turkish language or a foreign language, whether it is a movie, a series, a daily show, or even non-scripted. The idea was to find partners worldwide to bring commercially appealing content, so we started by partnering with Non-Stop in Latin America for our first title, which is a 100-episode show that is in production right now. We are delighted with them and obviously want to increase the number of co-productions, so we have also developed a couple of other projects.”

▸  In the meantime, are you still finding projects for BluTV?
“Yes, of course. We are finding partners for Saga and continuing to find projects for BluTV because that helps. In the SVOD business, people think platforms are like a bookstore where you need to find everything, which is very expensive. You cannot provide everything because it has a cost. We need to find new models and new ways to keep investing in originals because the more you build those franchises, the more you will have a solid subscriber base. That is the biggest challenge for BluTV.”

▸  Which business models are you exploring?
“We think there may be other ways to produce Turkish content that might make projects even more appealing to broadcasters abroad. Our main focus, of course, will be commissioning. Nevertheless, we can start producing a show even if it lacks a Turkish broadcaster. That is the difference in our strategy: we are not waiting for a Turkish broadcaster to commission a specific project to start production; we are more focused on the outside potential first, and then we come back to our territory to keep monetizing.”

▸  What did you discover about Turkish production during this process?
“We are seeing that it is about making our content travel and our know-how travel. This means good writers, scripts, and crews. I think the most important thing is really the know-how. Maybe in ten years, Turkish content will be less popular than today, I do not know, but if that happens at the end of the day, I know we will still have the expertise, the know-how, and that can always travel.”

▸  What is your main focus right now?
“On the BluTV side, it is essential for us to be able to get our franchises bigger. As a next step, we are looking to produce new seasons of our shows, especially the returning seasons of ‘Magarsus,’ a very successful show in Turkey, and ‘Deeply,’ a more female-oriented show.”

By Fernando Calviño and Federico Marzullo