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Turkish soaps earn huge ratings

‘Nour’, ‘Lost Years’ grip Arab audiences


LONDON -- The final episodes of leading pan-Arab satcaster MBC's popular Turkish sudsers "Nour" and "The Lost Years" attracted a record 85 million viewers and 67 million viewers, respectively, according to figures released by MBC execs.

"Nour," in particular, has been a cultural phenomenon in the Arab world ever since its debut on March 29. The Turkish melodrama, which MBC execs dubbed into Arabic using a colloquial Syrian dialect rather than formal, classical Arabic, follows the travails of a beautiful, young woman who marries into a wealthy family.

Arab auds became increasingly gripped by the various twists and turns in the suitably labyrinthine plots, as media commentators in the region and beyond wrestled to explain the show's unprecedented popularity across the Arab world.

"The show's finale (on Aug. 30) broke all records," says MBC's Mazen Hayek. "It was a socio-cultural phenomenon like we haven't seen before. It's one of the only times journalists have been able to print good news about the Middle East."

MBC has plans to broadcast further Turkish melodramas, again dubbed into Arabic, once the Muslim holy month of Ramadan is over.

Read the full article at: http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117992148.html"' target="_blank">http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117992148.html

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'Tollywood' tales entrance millions

Monday, September 15, 2008

Turkish soap operas have attained unexpected popularity in neighboring countries and the Gulf nations. As they become a social phenomenon in Arab countries, soap operas generate extra income for the Turkish television industry. With 18 series being exported to 22 countries, the overall income this year has reached $3 million

In the not-so-distant past imported soap operas, mainly from Brazil or Mexico, when first broadcast first on Turkish state television, or TRT, and then on newly created private television channels, literally “stopped life” on Turkish streets.

Soap operas, such as “The Bold and The Restless” and “Rosalinda” appealed not only to housewives but to shopkeepers, students and almost every other segment of society. But the tendency to import soap operas came to a halt in the last decade, as local soap operas began to gain increasing popularity.

Today, Turkish television channels broadcast tens of different soap operas each week, with each channel sometimes broadcasting two or more a night in response to viewer interest.

Turkish series, which usually revolve around cliched contrasts, such as the rich and the poor or the city and country, have become part of the daily lives of millions. They are now even exported to Turkey's neighbors, where they enjoy great interest, particularly in the Gulf states.

Turkish soap operas have lately become so popular in Middle Eastern countries that in this upcoming season, 18 soap operas will be airing in 22 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, reported daily Hürriyet on Saturday.

Noor: an obsession:

The soap opera craze started when one series, “Gümüş,” or “Noor” in Arabic, became an obsession among young women in Saudi Arabia.

The popularity of “Noor” has gained major attention in the Saudi press, as the series was interpreted to “help narrow the gender gap between men and women” across the region. Its lead character, Songül Öden, is nothing short of a role model for Arab women, while Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ, the male lead, has reportedly received many marriage proposals from the same crowd.

“I am glad that Turkey is supplying role models for Saudi women. They do need to break out of the shell that they have been cast in. The U.S. cannot supply that. ‘Sex in the City' certainly cannot,” said R. V. Edwards, a contributor at news site MSN's world blog.

The show, based around a love story between the “poor but proud” Noor and the “rich but macho” Mohannad, has indeed affected millions of people in countries such as Morocco, Dubai, Algeria, Syria, Tunisia, Jordan and especially Saudi Arabia. The lead actors have become big-time celebrities on Arab streets.

Millions watching:

In Saudi Arabia, the only country with viewer ratings, about 3 to 4 million people watch the show daily, out of a population of nearly 28 million, The Associated Press reported, relying on figures by the Middle East Broadcasting Company, or MBC.

“The series touches on key points, such as romanticism in a marriage and a women's fight to freedom,” said sociologist Nilüfer Narlı, a professor at Bahçeşehir University. “She is married but her career is still important. That gains her respect,” she told the Turkish Daily News yesterday.

“Noor” has become an agent for Turkey to be a cultural exporter, paving the road for more. Today, the overall export revenue from Turkey's soap opera industry has reached $3 million. Each episode is sold for between $2,000 and $10,000, according to its popularity, reported Hürriyet.

“The show was first bought in 2006 by MBC. When its ratings boosted, all broadcasting agencies in the region started showing keen interest in Turkish soap operas,” said Esra Özbay, coordinator for international operations of Doğan TV, the producer of “Noor.”

“We signed a four-year contract with MBC,” Özbay said. “They gave us a guarantee to buy all our shows during the next three years. In case they decide not to buy them, we will still be able to sell those to other agencies.”

Tourism is expected to be another area to benefit from the “‘Noor' effect.”

“The show's visuals are very strong. The cast has beautiful women and handsome men. Plus the set is an amazing Istanbul view, which is definitely another reason for its popularity,” said sociologist Narlı. Indeed, the number of Arab tourists that visited Turkey has increased from 30,000 to 100,000 this year.

TDN reporter Işıl Eğrikavuk contributed to this article.

Confronting traditions

“Noor”s success has also received interest from foreign news agencies, including The Associated Press, which reported that the series was challenging traditional norms in the Arab world.

“‘Noor' delivers an idealized portrayal of modern married life as equal partnership -- clashing with the norms of traditional Middle Eastern societies, where elders often have the final word on whom a woman should marry and many are still confined to the role of wife and mother,” said The Associated Press report, dated July 27.

“Some Muslim preachers in the West Bank and Saudi Arabia have taken notice, saying the show is un-Islamic and urging the faithful to change channels.”

“This series collides with our Islamic religion, values and traditions," the AP quoted Hamed Bitawi, a lawmaker for the militant Islamic Hamas and a preacher in the West Bank city of Nablus, as saying.

“In the West Bank and Gaza, streets are deserted during show time and socializing is timed around it. In Riyadh, the Saudi capital, and in Hebron, the West Bank's most conservative city, maternity wards report a rise in babies named Noor and Mohannad. A West Bank poster vendor has ditched Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein for Noor and Mohannad,” the agency reported.

© 2005 Dogan Daily News Inc. www.turkishdailynews.com.tr

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