By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
APART from the coronavirus pandemic, another development that hit the local sporting scene this year was the non-renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN Corp., home to some of the top leagues, including the two biggest collegiate sports associations in the country.
With the House of Representatives voting for non-renewal of the Kapamilya network franchise in May, the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) lost their broadcast partner.
It marked the end of a fruitful 20-year partnership between the UAAP and ABS-CBN that saw the former soar to great heights, while the NCAA found its tie-up with the network abruptly terminated midway into their 10-year deal.
For sports marketer and UAAP football commissioner Rely San Agustin, the unfortunate shutdown of ABS-CBN was a hit for the UAAP and NCAA, considering what their relationships with the network brought to them.
“It’s a hit for the UAAP and NCAA as apart from the reach that ABS-CBN gave them, they lost broadcast money, which is basically the funds that support the leagues (in recruiting) athletes and developing their programs. But good thing, there are other networks they can turn to,” said Mr. San Agustin in an interview.
And sure enough, it did not take long for the two TV-friendly leagues to find new broadcast homes, with the UAAP deciding to partner with Cignal TV and the NCAA with GMA Network, Inc.
While the deals were reached in the previous months, it was only last week that these were formalized.
Mr. San Agustin said getting these leagues were “wins” for Cignal TV and GMA Network since the UAAP and NCAA already have a captive audience who are eagerly awaiting their return.
But the sports marketer underscored that they should not be just satisfied with having these leagues in their fold.
Cignal TV and GMA Network, he said, must further shore up these brands, taking cue from those already established by ABS-CBN to truly make the partnership work for all parties.
“If you are the league, as much as possible, you want to have it on a free-to-air channel. Cable is different as not everybody has cable. It is, however, a good add-on. You want to have reach; a nationwide reach,” Mr. San Agustin advised.
“Also, as we all know now, there has to be that digital component, where there has to be that reach through over-the-top media services like live-streaming. Right now, almost everyone is stuck on their mobile phone and, as much as possible, they want to tune in wherever they are because there is already access to it. And then there is continuing what ABS was doing in being able to market the leagues creatively,” he added.
And such tack is obviously not lost to Cignal TV and GMA Network as they laid down big plans for their partnerships with the UAAP and NCAA.
In their formal signing of memorandum of agreement with the UAAP on Thursday, Cignal TV, along with Smart Communications, Inc., said they are fully committed to their partnership with the league for the next five years.
“Our joint venture with the UAAP goes beyond being an official broadcast partner. Together with providing a superior viewing experience for all sports fans nationwide, we have put in place plans to help further grow the league and its athletes — giving more depth to our partnership.” said Robert P. Galang, president and CEO of Cignal, after the MoA signing.
As the official broadcast partner of the UAAP, Cignal TV will broadcast the games live via One Sports on free-to-air Channel, while Smart will also stream the games live through an exclusive platform to be made available to all Smart prepaid and postpaid subscribers.
Aside from the games themselves, Cignal TV will also produce UAAP-themed programs and features and hold various activities within the schools throughout the partnership’s run.
The Cignal TV-UAAP deal, however, will be fully in display in the league’s Season 84 as the UAAP has already cancelled its Season 83 to ensure the health and safety of its student-athletes amid the coronavirus pandemic.
GMA Network, meanwhile, expressed its desire to have a meaningful and fruitful relationship with the NCAA for the next five years.
“We are looking forward to showing everyone the world-class talent of our young Filipino student athletes and rest assured that we will only give what is best for them,” said GMA Chairman and CEO Felipe L. Gozon following their MoA signing also on Thursday.
The Kapuso network said its NCAA coverage will be anchored on its wide reach that will have league events beamed on GMA News TV, GMA Pinoy TV, and via online streaming www.GMANetwork.com. The finals of the NCAA men’s basketball will be aired over its main channel GMA-7.
The NCAA is angling to have its Season 96 take place by the second quarter of next year done under strict health and safety protocols to guard against the spread of the coronavirus.