While the PBA experienced a gradual resurgence in game attendance, their television coverage has been unstable in recent years.
For the past five years coverage of the Philippine Basketball Association on television has been shaky at times. After the expiration of the first contract with ABC (now TV5), coverage moved to RPN 9 in conjunction with Solar Entertainment in 2008. However, signal problems and uncertainty in network changes hindered its coverage, which ended after the 2010-11 season, the first of the returning three-conference format. The last two conferences were moved to Studio 23, though not in a co-production capacity with ABS-CBN Sports, after RPN 9 was reformatted to ETC in February 2011. After the end of the 2011 Governors’ Cup, the league decided to find a new partner anew.
It was during the 2011 offseason that TV5 would renew its partnership with the PBA, although it did not involve the airing of games on the main TV5 network. Instead they would air the games on the AKTV block on IBC-13. The latter network aired all of the games of the 2011-12 season, and then the entirety of the 2012-13 Philippine Cup. But during the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup, the PBA’s coverage problems resurfaced.
In April, it was announced that TV5 is not renewing its blocktime agreement with IBC-13, which expired in May. Scrambling to find ways to air the remainder of the Commissioner’s Cup, the PBA reluctantly agreed to air its semifinal games on TV5 on a live or delayed basis, and then air every Finals game live on the said network. The Finals brought high ratings for TV5, but it remains to be seen whether the main network can carry the games of the Governors’ Cup.
Just recently a new proposal was made for the coverage of the Governors’ Cup. Under the submitted proposal, Sunday games will be aired live on both TV5 and AksyonTV, while Wednesday, Friday and Saturday coverage will be aired live on AksyonTV and on a delayed basis on TV5. The TV5 management also promised to improve the signal reach of UHF network AksyonTV. If approved, this will be the setup for the Governors’ Cup which starts in mid-August.
The recent surge of popularity in the PBA is due to the infusion of new talent, growing attendance during games, and social media interaction. However, it is the league coverage on television that is having its shortcomings. I don’t blame the PBA for returning to TV5, but they should have thought twice first about other networks willing to pitch in. Knowing the uncertainty of coverage on TV5 considering its loaded primetime lineup, they should have convinced GMA 7, which has a history of reluctance in providing sports coverage, to step in and air games on its GMA News TV network. Why GMA News TV? Because it is a VHF channel with a higher reach (unlike AksyonTV), and it has enough airtime to cover the PBA. I hope GMA 7 is listening, because if they step in soon, they have the potential to be a big-time player in promoting sports to the nation.
For now, PBA’s television coverage continues to be shaky. Despite its growing popularity, the league’s games on television remain its Achilles’ heel. I hope they find a way to get a stable television partner soon in order to continue its growth and profitability. That said, it will be a long hard road for the league to stabilize its television coverage.