President Noynoy Aquino’s State of the Nation Address will take place later this afternoon. Unfortunately, it is also a game day in the 90th NCAA season basketball tournament.
The NCAA doubleheader for this Monday afternoon will feature the San Beda-St. Benilde and Mapua-San Sebastian matches for both the juniors and seniors division. The seniors games are usually seen live on television, but due to today’s SONA, tape-delay broadcasts on the TV5 family of networks will be a likely scenario.
Television coverage has always been inconsistent for the Philippines’ oldest collegiate league. During the 1990s, when government TV stations PTV-4 and IBC-13 covered the games, only the opening day and championship matches were aired in full, with highlights of the other games relegated to their newscasts.
It only got worse in 2000, when the championship matches pitting St. Benilde and Jose Rizal College were not aired. Then in 2001, despite the guarantee of PTV-4 and Media Conglomerates, Inc. to air most of the matches, the NCAA tournament was reduced to a mere 30-minute highlight show called ‘Inside NCAA’, with opening day and championship matches being aired live.
In 2002, the NCAA decided to join forces with ABS-CBN Sports, with the league’s games now being featured on a regular basis. But with the UAAP already a fixture on Studio 23 (now ABS-CBN Sports+Action), the NCAA was relegated to a weekday-exclusive schedule, with non-televised games on Mondays. Still, it was a marginal improvement from the PTV-MCI era.
Ten years later, the NCAA signed a deal with Sports5 to cover their games. Initially airing over IBC-13 (via AKTV), the league was forced to return to UHF television via AksyonTV once the AKTV deal expired. In addition, TV5 aired the championship matches, before receiving a select slate of elimination games this year. This time, however, all games were aired on the said network.
Still, circumstances related to national events continued to affect the television coverage of the NCAA. Examples include the funeral of the late Corazon Aquino in 2009, the recent State of the Nation Addresses, and the Janet Lim-Napoles Pork Barrel hearings in 2013, which either led to pre-emptions or delayed broadcasts of the games. And more recently, the impromptu DAP address of President Aquino led to an abrupt end of Sports5’s live NCAA coverage.
In the end, it is clear that the NCAA is at a disadvantage. While television coverage is gradually improving, it is still far from a finished product. What the league needs now at this point is flexibility, from the scheduling to the availability of the venue, in order to take advantage of live television, and to satisfy the demands of loyal fans.
NCAA management should start learning from these experiences. Otherwise, the league will continue to feel its fair share of shortcomings on television coverage.