I happened to take a brief look at CSI on Studio 23 recently, and I was shocked when they dubbed the program to Filipino. It was uncharacteristic and unusual to begin with. I remember Studio 23’s programming as being ‘different’ from other television networks, but in recent years they gradually shed its upper-class appeal in favor of a more mass-oriented approach.
Studio 23’s ‘Filipinization’ began as early as 2004, introducing its most popular and recognizable slogan ‘KaBarkada Mo’. They aired supplementary programming for the popular reality show ‘Pinoy Big Brother‘, along with the addition of original self-produced programs aimed at young audiences. By then they were airing the UAAP and NCAA games, along with classic Filipino movies on its ‘Lunch Box Office’ and ‘Barkada Nights’ blocks. But the transformation was only the beginning.
In August 2010 a slightly modified slogan was introduced. The slogan ‘IbaKabarkada’ signaled a ‘new’ era for the UHF network, gradually moving away from the upscale program that they used to air in favor of shows aiming to a mass audience. Gone were the English newscast ‘News Central’ and its morning news show ‘Breakfast’. ‘IbaBalita’ took ‘News Central”s place and used Filipino as the main tongue. Reality shows like ‘Survivor’ and ‘The Amazing Race’ were also taken off the air, as are American drama series such as ‘Smallville’, ‘Desperate Housewives’ and ’24’. Instead they devoted more air time to early morning anime, Asianovelas and Latinovelas. More Filipino classic movies and sports events were also being aired by the network.
Perhaps the biggest move made by Studio 23 was the transfer of traditional American canned programs to the late afternoon slots in favor of Barkada Nights, Philippine Azkals soccer, IbaBalita, WWE, UFC and NBA events. By the start of 2013, all of the canned American programs were dubbed in Filipino.
So why did Studio 23 turned into a mass-oriented UHF television channel? A lot of it had to do with the growth of cable television and internet subscribers. More and more people subscribe in order to get more viewing options and catch up with all the latest news and information in a flash. Studio 23 used to provide viewers with ‘FUSE’ (fresh from the US episodes) of their favorite programs, but gradually deemphasized it following the ‘IbaKabarkada’ launch. Nevertheless they still air select canned programs from the US, albeit dubbed in Filipino in order for the masses to understand.
The network itself also saw the opportunity to acquire more sports properties in an effort to shift attention to a predominantly male audience. In 2011, Studio 23 started airing NBA games through a co-production agreement with Solar Sports. They also acquired the rights to air WWE programs, Philippine Azkals games, Top Rank Boxing and the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
In the three years since using the ‘IbaKabarkada’ slogan, Studio 23 shot its way among the top five television networks in the country. However, I think the network needs to fine-tune their programming further. They need to reduce the programming hours of Filipino movies, which on average is six hours a day, and introduce more original programming. They also had to expand their sports programming; ABS-CBN does have the Balls Network, so why not? And air less MYX and Sine-Skwela, because it’s ‘nakakasawa’.
In 1996, Studio 23 was the Premium Network, airing quality programs for the upscale family. But with all the technological advancements, it morphed into the ‘IbaKabarkada’ Network, airing programs for the youth, the males, and the masses. Today it is one of the most-watched television networks in the country, owed mostly to the ‘Filipinization’ that took nearly a decade to develop.