Philippines, Sports, television, United States

Balls Bids Farewell, Plus UFC Moves to Sports5

Balls will air for the final time on December 31, 2015, and most sporting content will be transferred to the free-to-air ABS-CBN Sports+Action the following day. (Logo courtesy of Creative Programs, Inc./ABS-CBN)

Balls’ days are numbered.

SkyCable announced that Balls will cease to air after December 31, 2015, ending a seven-year run. The permanent sign-off of Balls will involve both its standard definition (channel 34) and high definition (channel 195) feeds.


Most sports programming on Balls will be moved to the free-to-air ABS-CBN Sports+Action starting next year. An HD counterpart of the latter network will also be launched.

Debuting on January 1, 2008, Balls became the home to some of the world’s top sporting events, ranging from UEFA and FIFA soccer competitions to FIVB tournaments. It also aired both the French Open and U.S. Open tennis, as well as European Tour and Asian Tour golf.

Balls made history on July 16, 2009 when it launched Balls HD, the first-ever Filipino HD television channel. The channel aired both the UAAP and NCAA tournaments, as well as a select few international tournaments.

But perhaps Balls’ biggest claim to fame was the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The premier mixed martial arts organization began airing on Balls in 2009, and the latter was credited with popularizing the UFC in the Philippines.

Unfortunately, with Balls about to leave the airwaves, it is clear that ABS-CBN Sports has no intention of keeping the UFC rights. As a result, the broadcast rights of UFC will be moved to Sports5 starting next year.

Sports5’s plan is to air the UFC live on the Cignal-exclusive Hyper channel, with delayed broadcasts on TV5. However, it remains to be seen if fight fans will respond well to the change, considering that Hyper is still a work in progress and is not as well-known as its competitors.

That said, it’s up to Sports5 to reinforce Hyper with more well-known sporting events. The UFC may be a good way to start, but it’s not enough to put them on top just yet.

As for ABS-CBN Sports, the time to sort out the mess is now. With Balls going off the air, ABS-CBN Sports+Action has a bigger dilemma ahead of them.



55 thoughts on “Balls Bids Farewell, Plus UFC Moves to Sports5

  1. For one thing, at least ABS is making their channel portfolio less redundant by removing Balls, like what NBCUniversal when they replaced the Style Network with Esquire Network in the US for that very reason. It’s also nice to see that S+A will have an HD feed too. Although, this leaves me wondering if that “must-carry” rule will ever be enforced on HD channels, when the time comes.

    As for UFC moving to Sports5, however, I very much agree that Hyper may want to have a programming beef-up, as the channel’s current programming slate isn’t that interesting, except when FIBA and Olympics happen, although I would rely on Cignal’s PPV HD service for those.

    Then again, TV5’s cable portfolio (including this one, Colours and Bloomberg PH) is in need of improvement overall, in terms of programming and even graphics, if they’re going to be on par with the ABS-es and the Solars, quality-wise.

    • For now, though, both HD channels are exclusive to SkyCable, but hopefully, once we fully convert to HD, they’ll be carried by all cable companies.

      And we agree that Hyper needs improvement, as are fellow Cignal-owned channels. TV5 has the money to do that, so they need to act accordingly.

    • Right now, work in progress ang UFC sa Sports5 next year. Growing ang audience ng MMA, not to mention that TV5 has experience in the business before with PXC. So they need to capitalize on it.

      • Jose Tiamson says:

        If they can’t take care of UFC just what they did the NCAA, baka bumalik pa sa ABS-CBN Sports. The question is it will be dejavu all over again? I don’t think so but it might happen.

      • Ang problema is most provincial cable providers don’t carry Hyper, Colours or any Cignal-exclusive channel at all. Mahihirapan talaga ang Sports5 sa task na icacarry sa kanila since sila na ang hahalili sa ABS-CBN Sports para sa UFC rights.

        In terms of déjà vu happening again on Sports5, if they can’t come up with a solution (regarding Hyper’s carriage on most provincial operators), we would see a NCAA repeat scenario all over again.

      • They really need to be more aggressive in convincing people to subscribe to Cignal. That’s the only way they’ll be able to spread the word of the UFC on their own terms.

  2. Gab says:

    I am sad to see UFC will be leaving the ABS-CBN’s broadcast properties within the turn of the year. It can be remembered thru airing big fights on 2 and 23 (the last ones were the fights of Rousey vs. Holm and Mcgregor and Aldo) and organizing big events in Manila including the homecoming tour of Mark Munoz several years back.

    Good luck to Sports5 who will be covered this MMA event.

    • Given that Hyper is not that well known, it’s a tough challenge for Sports5 to promote the UFC on Cignal. Although Cignal has over a million subscribers, that’s still a small sample size.

      • Jose Tiamson says:

        unlike in sky cable which has a good backer in ABS-CBN and they made the UFC a huge hit to many pinoys like their teleseryes which is also a huge hit. TV5 needs to man up fast or else, we might see deja vu all over again.

      • At least ABS has the balls to carry SkyCable-exclusive channels to most provincial pay TV operators via Creative Programs, Inc.

        If they can’t market Hyper or any Cignal-exclusive channel to provincial operators fast, mauulit lang ang nangyari sa NCAA.

      • Jose Tiamson says:

        it might be hard for Sports5 or TV5 as a whole to get what is inside the secret book of ABS-CBN and how to make a brand become so successful.

  3. James Ty III says:

    Hopefully. Sports5 already has the big sports events — PBA, UFC, FIBA and the Olympics. ABS has to settle for the NBA, UAAP and NCAA.

      • James Ty III says:

        One good step is Hyper will show UFC fights live unlike Balls which was slightly delayed. And with the 10 pm Sunday night free TV airings, it looks like Sports360 will be axed. One of its hosts, Mela Tunay, will concentrate on her UAAP volleyball career with UST.

        And besides, there is already a Sports360 Blitz before the PBA games begins on

      • They can just move Sports360 to AksyonTV. Total that channel is becoming more sports-oriented so it would be better if they move that show instead. And it doesn’t matter if the channel is a poor man’s Sports+Action, as long as they make use of Channel 41’s normally vacant space whenever there’s no sports coverage.

  4. James Ty III says:

    If Sports360 moves to Aksyon TV, it should be aired on an earlier time slot. TV5 should also strengthen Aksyon TV’s signal and give it more promotion.

  5. Gab says:

    Sports+Action HD’s programming will be mostly focused on sports coverages (including the UAAP, NCAA, Pinoy Pride golf, volleyball and football).

    • They obviously won’t cover the NBA since it’s owned by Solar and has its own HD channel, and the latter is only on S+A SD as a blocktimer of sorts.

      Now, if they can turn S+A SD into a 24/7 channel on cable (with 18-hour operations on free TV in a similar manner as some of the Solar channels), it would be better.

  6. Gab says:

    Aside from UFC, Hyper now carries PGA Tour. Solar had to cut off their broadcast contract w/ PGA Tour, because they find that this is too expensive and not suitable for advertisers, as per Wilson Tieng.

    • It’s really clear that Solar Sports is becoming increasingly unattractive with most of its big-time events moving over to other networks. Once Pacquiao retires, that may be the last straw for them.

      As for Hyper, it’s a big addition to their lineup, even if golf is not really popular here.

      • James Ty III says:

        The NBA is the only other big-time sports event Solar has. Wilson Tieng took a gamble with the PBA and failed.

      • Except that it has its own channels in BTV and NBA Premium. What Solar Sports have now are usually not-so-famous events. They even cover cockfighting, a poor man’s sport, for god’s sake. No wonder why Cignal got rid of it.

      • Jose Tiamson says:

        True. With both Balls and possibly Solar Sports coming to its demise we might see an ending of an era in Phillippine Cable and Sports Television. But this might be good as well. I just hope that a sport network giant like ESPN can penetrate our market because of our passion for sports.

  7. James Ty III says:

    Sayang nga ESPN’s Philippine broadcast was taken over by Fox. Even Fox is now immersed in some local sports like the PBA finals and The GOAT.

    • Fox still has an impressive resume of international events though. However, they are available only on more expensive plans. Same goes to ASN, beIN Sport and Sports+Action HD. Exclusivity is also a factor (e.g. Hyper, Sports+Action HD).

      That said, ill-equipped lang talaga ang Solar Sports to keep up with its rivals, now that they lost most of their properties. Much like Balls, they are destined to shut down.

    • Jose Tiamson says:

      The only thing for Fox Sports Asia to really explode is to gain tv right to air the National Football League and air the NFC which their mother network has the right of that. Kahit sabihin natin the NFL has a small fanbase here in Asia, some are the passionate fans and some can even stay up late just the catch up. But it will depend if FSA can take that risk.

      • They might not get the NFL at all. ASN got the rights to not only nationally televised CBS and FOX games, but also NBC’s Sunday Night Football and ESPN’s Monday Night Football. And the NFC games are too small of a sample size. No wonder why ASN can only be accessed on more expensive plans.

        And besides, FOX still has MLB, which is just fine.

  8. Gab says:

    It’s seems naka-move on na ang ABS-CBN sa pagkawala ng UFC sa line-up ng sports programming. By the way, URCC fights will be aired on Sports and Action starting this month

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