Philippines, Sports, television, United States

Thoughts on U.S. NCAA College Basketball on ESPN5

ESPN5 will cover some of the U.S. NCAA intra and interconference games this season, and they will also air March Madness in March 2018. (Photo credit: National Collegiate Athletic Association)

The NBA may still be the most popular global basketball league for Filipinos, but ESPN5 is looking to change that perspective.

When TV5 and ESPN joined forces to establish ESPN5 last month, one of the things that they addressed is the lack of serious attention towards U.S. college basketball in the Philippines. While TV5 has been able to broadcast the March Madness portion of U.S. NCAA basketball in recent years, regular season coverage was only restricted to obscure networks such as All-Sports Network (now Sports Illustrated Asia).

That changed last Wednesday when ESPN5 began to air intra and inter-conference games of the U.S. NCAA Division I basketball season. Weekly doubleheaders are currently aired, live or delayed, starting at 8:00 a.m. on days where the NFL is not aired, and the frequency is expected to increase once the NFL season ends.

Even though the U.S. NCAA is expected to provide a boost to ESPN5, there are still some doubts as to whether or not this league will thrive among Filipino basketball fans. Here are some questions that may test the Filipino’s knowledge of the U.S. NCAA.

  1. Do they know some of these up-and-coming U.S. college basketball stars (e.g. Marvin Bagley)?
  2. Do they know top rivalries such as Duke vs. North Carolina and Kentucky vs. Louisville?
  3. Do they know the rules of the U.S. NCAA which is drastically different from the NBA and FIBA?
  4. Do they know each college and university’s nicknames, colors, cultures and traditions?
  5. Do they have the patience and time to even care about U.S. college basketball?

That said, it will not be easy for ESPN5 to promote U.S. NCAA basketball despite the Filipinos’ love of the game. Much like the NBA, the PBA and even local college hoops such as the UAAP and the NCAA, expect plenty of growing pains before the U.S. NCAA becomes embedded in every Filipino basketball fan.

But does ESPN5 have plenty of time and money to do so? Considering the limits of its licensing deal with TV5, not to mention the network’s poor reach, they really need all the time and power in the world to cultivate the U.S. NCAA into a part of Filipino basketball culture.

Oh well. In any case, let’s give ESPN5 the best of luck with the U.S. NCAA because it is going to be a rough ride ahead.

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Philippines, Sports, television, United States

In and Out: TV5 Announces, Then Pulls Out NFL

Unless things change, the NFL will not be seen on Philippine television in the foreseeable future after Sports Illustrated Asia backed out and TV5 pulled out any scheduled games from its lineup. (Photo courtesy of the National Football League)

America’s most popular sport appears to be on its way out of the Philippines.

Sports Illustrated Asia, formerly the All-Sports Network (ASN), dropped the NFL from its lineup of programs at the start of the 2017 season. The channel best known for airing the National Hockey League, U.S. NCAA college football and college basketball had been broadcasting NFL games for nearly a decade now.

Almost simultaneously, TV5 announced that they will carry NFL games this season. But as soon as they placed the schedule of NFL games on its website, they decided to pull them out at the last minute in favor of ‘Movie Max 5’.

This means that for the first time in decades, the NFL will not be seen on Philippine television this season (unless one network will air the Super Bowl this February). It’s a shame considering that the league has had a long and distinguished love affair with Filipino sports fans and American expats, even though it falls behind basketball, volleyball and soccer in terms of local popularity.

Going back to TV5, the last-minute pullout of NFL games is the latest in a series of blunders committed by the network this month. Last week, TV5 ceased airing Cartoon Network and Boomerang shows in favor of TV shopping and movies, then in another last-minute move, they postponed anew the premiere of Brillante Mendoza’s ‘Amo’.

These moves are typical of Chot Reyes’ incompetence as a network executive. Once lauded for promoting the network’s ‘Choose Courage’ mantra, Chot’s questionable decisions has now turned the slogan into a joke.

The NFL, despite its lack of popularity in the Philippines, would have filled TV5’s suddenly moribund schedule. Had it aired as scheduled, people would have praised Chot Reyes for this fearless and courageous move.

Instead, Chot retreated like a coward and instructed his staff to pull them out in favor of endless Tagalized movies and TV shopping blocks. Which leads to where TV5 is now, a network lacking any sense of direction.

Considering the expensive broadcast rights of the NFL, perhaps TV5 was right in not pursuing the league. But without a ‘Plan B’, all signs point to Chot Reyes becoming a pariah in the world of Philippine television.

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Philippines, Sports, television

No NFL on Solar Sports Again

The recent Super Bowl was aired on Solar Sports last February, but despite the opening of the new NFL season, no live games were being aired on the said network.

If you were a fan of the National Football League, you may remember that Solar Sports aired both the conference championship games and the Super Bowl early this year. However, as the new NFL season got underway this week, there was no sign of NFL programming on the Solar Sports channel.

As many of you know, the NFL has been aired exclusively in the Philippines via the All Sports Network (ASN), which unfortunately is exclusive through SkyCable and can only be unlocked if subscribers are able to afford more expensive packages. With American football fans craving and asking for a more affordable viewing choice, the Solar Entertainment management caved in to their demands and aired the final three NFL games of the 2012 season through Solar Sports. I thought they were on their way to airing NFL games for the 2013 season. However, they decided that these will be the last NFL games ever seen on a more affordable channel for the forseeable future, owing to the lucrative costs and low viewership numbers.

If low viewership numbers were to be considered, then the Solar management were pretty much correct in deferring themselves from airing the NFL. However, Fox Sports Asia continues to air Major League Baseball games despite the fact that a few people watch baseball in the Philippines. If Fox had their way, they would have stopped airing baseball games in favor of a more exclusive cable network. At the moment the most popular team sports in the Philippines are basketball, volleyball and soccer, owing to the recent success of the Gilas and Azkals national teams, as well as the local leagues established in Metro Manila (e.g. PBA, UAAP, NCAA). The popularity and loyal fanbase of these sports are the reasons why the likes of Solar, ABS-CBN, and TV5 continue to air these sports on a frequent basis.

The NFL is undoubtedly the most-watched league in the United States after the MLB. However its global popularity is limited due to the sport’s physical nature, lack of foreign players and high expenses of funding an American football team, which is why the NFL is taking baby steps in extending its fanbase beyond the United States. Despite their efforts, it may take a while before they can finally establish a foothold in the world of sports. Meanwhile only a few viewers can afford watching the NFL on the All Sports Network, hence the future of the sport on a more affordable outfit remains uncertain.

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