The Butcher | Franchise or no franchise, ABS-CBN will survive

The truth is, only 60% of the population still watch TV since most others already rely on their computers and phones for information and entertainment. There would even be less in the following years. In a decade or so, it is possible for regular TV to just be a thing of the past.   Actually, even before the threat of franchise cancellation came around, ABS-CBN was already preparing to get into other platforms since its executives had long been aware of the possibility of regular television going extinct.

Photos: Instagram

The truth is, only 60% of the population still watch TV since most others already rely on their computers and phones for information and entertainment. There would even be less in the following years. In a decade or so, it is possible for regular TV to just be a thing of the past. Actually, even before the threat of franchise cancellation came around, ABS-CBN was already preparing to get into other platforms since its executives had long been aware of the possibility of regular television going extinct.

Now that the approval for the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise is still hanging  in the air, people working for the network are understandably on tenterhooks. But life goes on for everyone.

Sure, they talk about the possibility of the network losing its franchise from time to time. However, that issue doesn’t necessarily consume them 24 hours a day. What they discuss mostly among themselves is still work-related.

The on-cam talents continue to wait for their next assignments, which at this point are already few and far between – what with so many of them crowding the ABS-CBN stable.

The technical team, meanwhile, is busy with the network’s transfer to its new studios in San Jose del Monte in Bulacan. (There are unconfirmed reports that the existing studio along Sgt. Esguerra will be turned into another Rockwell complex.) The new ABS-CBN property in San Jose del Monte is huge – some 7.7 hectares.

So far, two sound stages are already finished and operational. All episodes of Your Moment, in fact, were completed there. Some of the network’s forthcoming soaps may also hold its shoots in the San Jose del Monte studio. Star Cinema’s next project most likely will also be filmed there in its entirety.

The two studios are of Hollywood standards – with high ceilings and measuring 1,500 square meters each. So far, there are already inquiries from American film companies that regularly shoot here in the Philippines about the possibility of renting the new ABS-CBN studio facilities. ABS-CBN president Carlo Katigbak, however, isn’t open to the idea. At least, not yet.

At this point, there are 10 more sound stages that are waiting to be built. The ABS-CBN technical people, however, are already undergoing rigorous training on how to run the new facilities.

Of course, while some ABS-CBN employees are excited about the transfer, there are also those who dread the commute to the new studios, which may take an hour to reach from Quezon City – on a day without traffic, that is.

Right now, those who do not have vehicles, but are required to do chores there are forced to take the shuttle from SM San Jose. But there are ongoing talks with the Ayalas for them to devote an MRT station there for the convenience of the ABS-CBN employees and, eventually, for the benefit of the live studio audience who may want to watch It’s Showtime and ASAP.

But why does the network continue to plan for the future when there is a possibility that its franchise will not be renewed? The ABS-CBN people, in fact, are said to be expecting the worst.

There is still a glimmer of hope for them, however. All is not lost.

In case, the ABS-CBN franchise doesn’t get renewed, all that the network is losing is just its frequency. Its regular viewers will not see It’s Showtime and FPJ’s Ang Probinsiyano anymore on Channel 2. Likewise with the listeners of the radio stations DZMM and MOR.   

But they can still watch their favorite Kapamilya shows in other ABS-CBN platforms – like cable, I Want and the The Filipino Channel abroad. And lest we forget – there’s always Facebook. 

The truth is, only 60% of the population still watch TV since most others already rely on their computers and phones for information and entertainment. There would even be less in the following years. In a decade or so, it is possible for regular TV to just be a thing of the past.     

Actually, even before the threat of franchise cancellation came around, ABS-CBN was already preparing to get into other platforms since its executives had long been aware of the possibility of regular television going extinct.

It’s just unfortunate that the threat of franchise cancellation came at a time when the other platforms aren’t exactly profitable yet.

Are the ABS-CBN employees going to lose their jobs? Perhaps some may be affected. But then, the network would surely need people to run its alternative platforms. One thing for sure though is that there would be a lot of adjusting to do when it comes to the workflow because of the new network setup.

And, yes, but hopefully this doesn’t happen: There could be some adjustment to their pay since the new platforms may not earn as much (at least, not yet) compared to the huge advertising revenues ABS-CBN gets at the moment from regular television.  

The only people who will definitely be most affected, frankly speaking, are the Lopezes because they stand to earn less. But why worry about them when they have other businesses?

Besides, this problem regarding the cancellation of the ABS-CBN franchise is just kindergarten to them. When Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, they lost everything: ABS-CBN, Meralco and The Manila Chronicle. Geny Lopez was even jailed. 

But 14 years later, they bounced back and ABS-CBN regained its reputation as the biggest broadcast network this side of the world.

The Lopez family had always been risk-takers. In the late 1960s, they built that entire ABS-CBN compound in what was then called Bohol Avenue in Quezon City.  It had the most modern facilities and studios. In fact, ABS-CBN became the first local network to broadcast in full color. 

In 1971, in its attempt to monopolize television, it opened another station aside from Channel 2. This was Channel 4 (not to be confused with the government station).

This was how the two sister stations operated: Every day at 6 p.m. for example, ABS-CBN Channel 2 aired the variety show On With the Show with Mitch Valdes, Maritess Revilla and Manolo Favis. On the very same time slot, ABS-CBN Channel 4 also aired a program with a similar format--The Wow Generation with Baby O’Brien.

In that manner, ABS-CBN had a bigger slice of the advertising pie and definitely had a bigger chunk of the viewership, compared to Channels 5, 7, 9 and 13. (MBC-11 had already gone out of business by then.) That also proved to be cost-efficient: The on-cam talents shared one dressing room and had the same team of makeup artists. After they were all dolled-up, they went to their respective studios that were just across each to make more money for ABS-CBN. But all that ended when Marcos shut down ABS-CBN. 

Even during the post-EDSA I ABS-CBN, the Lopezes continued taking risks. Putting up TFC was a gamble for one. But that later paid off handsomely.

In 1992, it bought the exclusive coverage rights to the Barcelona Olympics. Two years later, the network handled the Miss Universe show in Manila. Those were costly projects. ABS-CBN, however, wanted the prestige. That sure added luster to the company’s image.

GMA operates differently. From 1998 till 2010, for instance, it aired the Binibining Pilipinas pageant. If you go by the math, any network airing a special event is bound to lose money because its programs are preempted and regular advertising income is lost. The network, however, doesn’t go to the poorhouse because of that. At most, only a night’s income is sacrificed.

When GMA gave up Binibining Pilipinas in spite of Venus Raj’s fourth place win at Miss Universe, ABS-CBN gladly took the pageant in and got lucky: All the Philippine bets after Venus did impressively at the international beauty congress and became news-makers. 

GMA was unable to get hold of any of those girls because they were only exclusive to ABS-CBN. Jessica Soho actually had to fly to New York to corner Pia Wurtzbach

ABS-CBN, on the other hand, was able to bleed each one of those beauty queens for all they were worth. Oh, how those girls brought in the ratings because – as they say – everybody loves a winner.

Perhaps that was one of the reasons why GMA slid down to No.2 sometime in 2014 after lording it over in Philippine television beginning in late 2003.   

And so – for those worried about ABS-CBN losing its franchise, there’s no need to panic. Trust ABS-CBN to know how to play its cards right.

 

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