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Philippine Cable and Digital Channels Face Issue of Redundancy

Hero is one of several cable channels in the Philippines that was shut down this year due to redundancy in content. (Logo courtesy of Creative Programs Inc.)

Redundancy has become a common theme for cable and digital channels in the Philippines.

In the first half of 2018 alone, viewers witnessed a closure of numerous cable channels in the country. On the local side of the spectrum, there was Hero, TAG, ABS-CBN Regional Channel, CT and 2nd Avenue, and on the international front there was Toonami.

There were also some rebrandings and resurrections of several channels as well. CPI made LIGA the second coming of Balls in time for the FIFA World Cup (replacing ARC, TAG and Hero in the process) while rebranding Lifestyle into Metro Channel, and then the MVP Group converted Bloomberg Philippines into One News.

So why do these things happen to our beloved cable and digital channels? The most cited reason is financial constraints, but it goes deeper than that.

When two channels air similar content with one another, redundancy happens. This is exactly the case that befell the likes of Hero, TAG, CT, 2nd Avenue and Toonami because they feature similar themes and genres with one or several channels.

Hero and Toonami, for example, became victims of cord-cutters and other channels such as Cartoon Network, Boomerang, AniPlus, Animax and even Yey!, which show some anime and action series as well. Same with CT and 2nd Avenue who share some of the programming with sister channels Jack TV and ETC.

Going further back, CPI shut down Velvet in 2014 and moved some of its content over to Lifestyle. Four years later, Lifestyle was rebranded into Metro Channel and is now essentially a second coming of Velvet.

There is also LIGA, which was launched for the FIFA World Cup but is expected to face similar redundancy issues as Balls since its only other source of content are events that air on ABS-CBN S+A. Finally, the rebrand from Bloomberg Philippines to One News has made AksyonTV (a former news channel-turned-T5N clone) redundant, something the MVP Group must address moving forward.

However, redundancy is not limited to cable channels alone. Yey!, for example, has a movie block called ‘Kid Sine’, but some of the films shown here are also aired on sister channel CineMo (under the CineFantasya and CineKomedya blocks).

Yey! also airs reruns of ‘Your Face Sounds Familiar Kids’ while CineMo rebroadcasts ‘Ang Probinsyano’ and ‘Bagani’ on weekends. Such reruns should have been exclusive to Jeepney TV.

These are just some of the examples that face cable and digital channels today. Considering the competitive nature of this business, trying to stay unique and distinct in terms of content is not as easy as it looks.

So the best that these channels can do right now is to remain innovative and wide-eyed to the audience while keeping themselves afloat. This juggling act may be difficult, but when done properly, they can stay on the air for a long period of time.

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ASEAN Summit Nothing – News5 No Longer Involved (Mostly) in ASEAN Summit

The possible final straw: News5’s lack of involvement in the 2017 ASEAN Summit was an indication that the organization is nearing its end, and the emphasis towards sports only made it worse. (Logo courtesy of ASEAN)

One seemingly moribund news organization is obviously non-committal when it comes to the ASEAN Summit.

Perhaps the biggest political event in the Philippines this year, the 2017 ASEAN Summit had it all. Whether it is the first visit of U.S. President Donald Trump to the country or the countless hours of talks between the ASEAN member states and top nations such as the U.S., China, Canada and Australia, the four-day event was for the most part memorable.

But not all of the Philippines’ top networks were around to cover those whirlwind four days. Just ask News5.

As expected, Luchi Cruz-Valdes and co. made little noise when it comes to coverage of the ASEAN Summit. And despite assigning some of their reporters (if there is any) to cover the said event, not to mention providing some live coverage on social media, the ASEAN Summit was buried in the pecking order in favor of sensational crime stories.

At least sister network Bloomberg Television Philippines did its share. As for the main network, nada.

Blame ESPN5 for all of this. After all, it was Chot Reyes who basically killed ‘Aksyon sa Umaga’, cut ‘Aksyon Tonite’ in half, and turned ‘Aksyon sa Tanghali’ into a ‘Hoy Gising’ wannabe.

They may still have ‘Aksyon Prime’ as their primary news program, but then again it has become a constant distraction to ESPN5’s sports coverage.

I have already written a eulogy that paid tribute to News5 and its ‘proud’ heritage. But as the ASEAN Summit neared, I thought to myself,

“Perhaps there is still a way to save News5 from the verge of collapse'”.

As it turned out, Chot Reyes was no longer committed to help News5 and instead made ESPN5 his ‘baby’. With sports now dominating TV5 and (for the most part) sister network AksyonTV, there is no room for said network to make the ASEAN Summit a must-see event the same way its rivals from Timog, Mother Ignacia, Shaw Boulevard and Visayas Avenue did.

It is safe to say that the time is now to pay our last respects to News5. Chot Reyes can dissolve this ‘pain in his butt’ anytime he wants, because as it stands, this division’s pain and suffering is unbearable and impossible to heal.

Hopefully the remnants of News5 will find a new home soon in the event that it will be dissolved. Good luck.

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News5 Needs a Revamp (Part II)

The problems surrounding TV5 has also spread to the news department.

In Part I, FTT discussed the various dilemmas that surrounded News5 in recent months. These problems range from questionable personnel decisions and content criticisms to programming issues.

Now on Part II, we discuss what steps are needed to resuscitate News5 from its doldrums. These solutions may be risky for the division, but in the long term, it should help them regain their former glory.

With that, here are the following ways to fix News5:

Hire and Promote Younger Reporters

News5 really needs some young blood to shore things up. With that in mind, an aggressive recruiting plan is needed to acquire younger journalists (preferably fresh graduates from mass communications and journalism courses) who could help them in the long term.

Of course, it would be best to avoid the so-called ‘entertainers masquerading as journalists’ (EMAJ) at all costs. If so, demote them to reporting showbiz news.

In addition to that, they may need to promote some of their long-time reporters to anchor the ‘Aksyon’ newscasts on a regular or a temporary basis. Reporters like Maricel Halili, Renz Ongkiko, Maeanne Los Baños, France Noguera, Carla Lim and Trish Roque could get some airtime as anchors in the near future.

However, that will only be possible if News5 does something drastic to ‘Aksyon’. Which leads to this much-needed solution.

Reformat ‘Aksyon’ (save for ‘Aksyon Tonite’)

For the most part, ‘Aksyon sa Umaga’, ‘Aksyon sa Tanghali’ and ‘Aksyon Prime’ are similar to the newscasts of ABS-CBN and GMA: mostly sensationalized in nature. This is contrast to ‘Aksyon Tonite’, whose content is more on hard news.

Getting rid of the sensationalized reports and focusing more on hard news should be a priority for News5 in restructuring the ‘Aksyon’ brand. Of course, a personnel shuffle is needed as well; after all, no one wants to be the next Raffy Tulfo, who turned ‘Aksyon sa Tanghali’ into a ‘Wanted sa Radyo’ in newscast form.

Find someone equal to ‘Aksyon Tonite”s Ed Lingao and Cheryl Cosim, and a more reenergized ‘Aksyon’ newscasts are ready to go. But if TV5 wants to make their news available 24/7, they need to go to this route.

Establish an All-News Channel on Cignal

AksyonTV’s glory days are long gone. The former 24-hour all-Filipino news channel is now airing more sporting events than ever, and TV5 may need to give its sister channel a much-needed rebrand (preferably renaming it as the Sports5 Network or AKTV).

A news channel is still a necessity though. But instead of airing it on free TV like before, what TV5 needed now is a Cignal exclusive news channel, complete with the simulcasts of all Radyo5 programs, ‘Aksyon’ newscasts and public affairs shows from TV5 (don’t confuse it with Bloomberg TV Philippines, as it is strictly a business news channel).

In order to do that, however, more shows on Radyo5 and TV5 are needed. Which leads to:

Create More Shows on Radyo5 and TV5

Radyo5 92.3 News FM may be the only news-oriented FM station in the country, but its programming is still a far cry from that of AM radio counterparts DZBB and DZMM. With that in mind, the station needs to add more programs in addition to hiring new hosts.

The same can be said to TV5, whose only active public affairs shows are ‘Alagang Kapatid’ and ‘ReAksyon’. Adding new shows could take a while, however, since the network is busy managing the coverage of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

These solutions should help News5 regain its former glory. But rebuilding is not easy, however, so all it needs is patience, perseverance and faith to get the job done.

News5 has a potential to be a great news organization. However, with all the problems they countered, it’s easy to see why they’re still lagging behind the others.

Hopefully they do this right as soon as possible. The fate of News5 is on the management’s hands.

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