The Globalization of Television - Through the Eyes of an Immigrant's Son

06/06/2016 01:02 am ET Updated Jun 06, 2017

I grew up in a home in Delaware listening to voices speak Turkish in the kitchen while I watched English television in the living room. Like many immigrant children, conversations took place in multiple languages in my house. And like many immigrant families, my parents understood that while there was no requirement to abandon their heritage when moving to America, the limited availability of foreign media in that era meant certain cultural sacrifices. Not being able to read a daily newspaper from Istanbul, hear radio broadcasts in Turkish about local politics or perhaps most significantly watch popular Turkish television shows were simply part of the trade off for the privilege of moving to America. No one complained. It was simply how it was.

Communities thrive by understanding and communicating values that are present in the culture - and these are often shared through storytelling. That's why fiction is so popular and story themes from one language can be adapted to another with great popularity. Many hit shows such as "House of Cards" and "Homeland" were North American adaptations of scripted programs from other countries. Much of the popular Netflix show Narcos is recorded in Spanish. As our story telling becomes more universal, the desire of all people to watch and share their native language content is exploding.

We are now all global citizens whether we realize it or choose to embrace it. The tension in a broadcaster's voice describing currency fluctuations overseas is the easiest indicator of how we are all connected by world economics. The urgency in a doctor's voice in front of Congress advising what resources are needed to battle Zika or Ebola is the easiest indicator of how we are all connected in public health matters. The geo-political barriers that traditionally separated us - oceans, mountain ranges, kingdoms and empires - matter no longer when we can all see and talk to each other anytime, anywhere with today's technology.

In launching The Dr. Oz Show seven years ago I had the adventure of traveling the world as over 100 different territories started to broadcast the show. I met people from every culture, religion and race who were watching our program in their homes. This was a real time tutorial in how America's television exports have been thriving in other countries for decades, especially with cable television's expanding capabilities, satellite television's space aged solutions and now internet based services like Netflix, Hulu, Crackle and Apple TV.

As those around me were working hard to increase the reach of my daily talk show I kept thinking back to those days in Delaware hearing my father tell me about his favorite artists that I couldn't watch. I knew that somewhere in this media moonshot we are living was a way to deliver content from another country to homes like mine in North America. Millions of families- happy but longing for their culture's television media - crave this access. And cable, satellite and digital platforms are now trying to address this appetite with improving, but imperfect solutions. Some channels stream continuous programming but are expensive. Illegal pirated content is all over the web because demand is so much greater than supply, but this is unfair to the content producers and the quality is often compromised.

So what if we took newer technologies like an on-demand over-the-top service like Netflix and reversed the direction of content flow? Instead of America taking high quality scripted programming to the rest of the world, let's bring the best of the world's programs to North America.

I set out to find a way, and discovered existing platforms that could make this content delivery not just possible, but accessible and affordable. I also learned that the market for this content has expanded dramatically. There are upwards of 60 million people in North America who are either immigrants, speak a language other than English at home or are culturally diverse enough to be eager for content from their home country in their native language. These immigrants have the same 52% rate of college education as native born Americans, and will share their thirst for the best dramas and comedies on the planet.

We need to build the bridges that connect this vast, patiently waiting market of 60 million people with the television of their homeland in their native language anywhere, anytime.
I joined this challenge by co-founding JungoTV with television pioneers who have experience in the international television business. Others will hopefully follow with similar subscription services that enable the viewer to choose whatever programming they want from their native country. We let you watch the world with your family even though you are living worlds apart. We can speak about the same stories as our parents and appreciate each other's insights. The shared, mass experience of globalized television can strengthen diaspora families by keeping us current and in touch. And independent of our native language, we will learn to appreciate remarkably talented actors in stories crafted brilliantly in foreign languages that have remained hidden until today. Marrying superb programming, novel technology, expert entrepreneurial sensibility and the vast market of consumers will enlighten all our lives. I am just glad that my 91 year old father is still here to witness the future.