Philippines, Sports, television

ABS-CBN Must Prove UAAP is Here to Stay

The Ateneo-La Salle first round matchup will take place on July 20 at 11:00 a.m., presumably to allow ABS-CBN Channel 2 to broadcast the game. (Photo credit: ABS-CBN News.com)

UAAP Season 77 is four days away, but the bidding rights for Season 78 are already underway.

The men’s basketball tournament begins this July 12, marking the fifteenth season of the fruitful and lengthy relationship between the UAAP and ABS-CBN Sports. However, the upcoming tournaments will be the first for ABS-CBN Sports+Action, formerly known as Studio 23, which was replaced in the middle of the previous season’s women’s volleyball tournament.

Entering the final year of the five-year contract signed in 2010, ABS-CBN made it clear that they will not stand pat and will do whatever it takes to keep the UAAP. And it became pretty evident when the revised UAAP schedule was released last week.

In the revised schedule, the highly anticipated Ateneo-La Salle duel was moved to July 20 from the original playdates of August 2 and July 19, and will be played at 11:00 a.m. The rescheduled game, according to observers, is aimed towards a potential live broadcast on Channel 2, the flagship channel of ABS-CBN.

Even though ABS-CBN 2 has aired the men’s basketball finals in the last five years (and the women’s volleyball final game last season), the VHF network has never aired a single Ateneo-La Salle match in men’s basketball. The game on July 20 could change all that.

Game-changing moves like this are no stranger to ABS-CBN Sports. Since becoming the broadcast partner of the UAAP in 2000, the network has made significant milestones over the years, some of which contribute to the league’s overwhelming popularity.

Whether it was the addition of student courtside reporters, the introduction of the Cheerdance Competition as a side event, the first-ever high definition television broadcasts, or Channel 2’s coverage of the men’s basketball finals, ABS-CBN’s shrewd moves at improving the UAAP coverage appear to pay off. And increasing attendance during games was the result of these moves.

But what will happen if the UAAP suddenly cut ties with ABS-CBN? For sure, there will be sweeping changes for the other coveror, which may threaten the consistent growth of the league.

Among those bidding for UAAP rights is TV5. The Kapatid network has been aggressively courting the UAAP for awhile now. However, they don’t have the attributes that ABS-CBN utilized in promoting the league. Worse, their scheduling issues with both the PBA and NCAA pose a great risk to their bid.

If ABS-CBN Sports wants to renew their rights with the UAAP, they must prove that the gains from last year are no fluke. During Season 76, the men’s basketball and women’s volleyball finals posted high ratings for the Kapamilya network, and virtually every game became a trending topic on social media sites.

The network also aired a ‘game of the week’ for men’s football and men’s volleyball, along with the finals of badminton, tennis, beach volleyball, baseball and softball, and various other events. In all, ABS-CBN gave the UAAP their most comprehensive coverage of the league’s games to date, and should give them the necessary inspiration for the upcoming season.

The UAAP on ABS-CBN Sports enters a pivotal moment in its 15-year history. For both parties, it is time to deliver their best performance yet.

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