This was not a far-fetched idea, but I think the PBA should air its games on GMA in the foreseeable future. In the wake of the issues regarding its television coverage on TV5, the possibility of PBA games on the Kapuso network (or at least its sister network GMA News TV) is as close as it can get.
This was in line with commissioner Chito Salud‘s statement that they will not allow a UHF network to air a PBA game again. There are seven VHF television networks in the country today. Of the seven, only ABS-CBN, TV5 and GMA has a wider reach. However, all three networks have a loaded primetime lineup, forcing the PBA to look elsewhere. In the past, they have aired games on PTV-4, RPN-9 and IBC-13, all three of which were owned by the government. However, neither has the reach nor the technology that the three major networks can offer. While TV5 aired PBA games before (during the ABC-5 era), at the time they were still an ‘alternative’ network, which unlike today’s TV5 is a bit less mainstream than those offered by ABS-CBN and GMA 7.
So why the PBA needs to have its games aired on GMA? First, GMA has two VHF television channels: GMA 7 and GMA News TV 11. Because the former has a loaded programming lineup, the games will likely be seen on the latter, whose offerings were news and public service programs, if nothing else. GMA News TV’s more flexible lineup will make it easier for the PBA to put its games on that network. Second, GMA badly needs sports programming. As written on a previous post, GMA’s only known coverage of live sports were Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. boxing matches, which were infrequent compared to basketball coverage. By inking a contract with the PBA, the GMA Sports division will be legitimized and at par with ABS-CBN and TV5’s sports divisions. And finally, GMA has a wider reach, clearer signal, and the technological resources, keys in which it would help raise the overall viewing audience.
At the moment the PBA and TV5 continue to debate over the coverage of the upcoming Governors’ Cup. If this debate drags on for a few more weeks, audience interest over the PBA may wane over this issue. Look at how ABS-CBN has done to the UAAP; interest over the league rose since it took over the broadcast of the games in 2000. That was sustained growth and progress; unlike the PBA, where despite the resurgence of in-game attendance, it continues to suffer in television viewing audience through five different channels. What the PBA needs is a major network deal with GMA, and barring any major issues in television coverage, the Kapuso network and the PBA may be together for a longer period of time. But not now, perhaps in the foreseeable future.