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

ABS-CBN Sports: Basketball TV’s Only Hope

The loss of FIBA basketball and the abrupt cancellation of the NCRUCLAA coverage has hurt Basketball TV’s profile of late. (Logo courtesy of Solar Entertainment)

Basketball TV’s 10th year on the air has not been a smooth-sailing one.

The Solar Entertainment-owned network has seen plenty of losses in the last several months. Not only did it lose the FIBA basketball rights to Sports5, it also cut short its broadcast of the fledgling NCRUCLAA men’s basketball tournament a month into its maiden season.

On the positive side though, they managed to air an entire season’s worth of the NAASCU men’s basketball tournament while continuing its long and loyal commitment to the NBA and its related properties. Still, BTV’s increasing irrelevance has put a lot of pressure on Solar, and with the costs still growing, BTV’s days appear to be numbered.

There is a reason why BTV is known as ‘Basketball TV’: it is the home to a variety of basketball tournaments. While the network centers around the NBA, it also aired a number of other tournaments as well, such as the Euroleague, the U.S. NCAA March Madness, and local leagues such as the PBA and the defunct Philippine Basketball League.

However, as 2017 proved to be a poor year for both BTV and Solar, it is clear that the former needs a lot of help. At this point, a backup financier is all that BTV requires, and they can look no further than a fellow coveror of NBA games.

Back in 2011, ABS-CBN Sports signed a deal with the NBA to cover its games on free TV. Now the partnership between ABS-CBN and the NBA is six years strong, and they also expanded their scope online when ABS-CBN signed a contract with the NBA to operate the Filipino website of NBA.com.

ABS-CBN Sports also carry a wealth of experience covering local basketball. The network has existing deals with the UAAP and NCAA, and more recently, they began to broadcast the ASEAN Basketball League, along with grassroots basketball tournaments such as the NBTC and Slam Rising Stars competitions.

If Basketball TV wants to survive this cutthroat world of cable television, their only hope right now is to join forces with ABS-CBN Sports. With the latter’s experience and deep pockets, they could help BTV in any way, shape or form when it comes to providing top-notch basketball coverage.

It may take some time to materialize, but let’s face it, this is the only choice for BTV given their recent issues. That said, let’s just hope that Solar will be willing to allow rival ABS-CBN Sports to resuscitate BTV, and in doing so, alleviate the pressure of running a high-profile cable channel in the Philippines.

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Philippines, Sports, television, United States

Despite Airing March Madness, US NCAA Remains Out of BTV’s Equation

Creighton star Kobe Paras may be making his presence felt in the U.S. NCAA, but the league's lack of popularity in his home country continues to be a problem. (Photo credit: Fox Sports Asia)

Creighton star Kobe Paras may be making waves in the U.S. NCAA, but the league’s lack of popularity in his home country continues to be a problem. (Photo credit: Fox Sports Asia)

It is obvious that U.S. college basketball will never get the respect it deserves from Filipino hoop fans.

Such is the case for the U.S. NCAA men’s basketball tournament. While top conference tournaments such as the ACC, PAC-12 and the Big 12 air regularly on the FOX Sports family of networks and Sports Illustrated Asia, one network in the Philippines is noticeably absent.

The network in question is Solar Entertainment’s Basketball TV, who back in April aired the U.S. NCAA Final Four and Championship games alongside Solar Sports. Unfortunately, the network’s emphasis on the more popular NBA once again put into question their commitment to air next year’s March Madness, let alone the entire U.S. NCAA season.

The last time BTV actually aired regular season U.S. NCAA basketball games was back in the 2012-13 season. This was also the last time the network aired March Madness prior to last April.

The history between the U.S. NCAA and Basketball TV date back to the fledgling network’s first season in 2006-07. Back then, the network was home to several popular conference tournaments, and they also aired a select number of March Madness games as well.

Unfortunately, U.S. college basketball failed to make an imprint in the consciousness of Filipino hoop fans. Unlike the UAAP or the Filipino NCAA where its rules are based on FIBA’s template (hence a faster style of play), the U.S. NCAA employs a unique set of rules such as 20-minute halves, 30 or 35-second shot clocks, and one-and-one free throw situations.

It also did not help that U.S. college basketball players are essentially obscure names. The fact is, for Filipino hoop fans, they will only gain popularity if they were drafted in the NBA and play well there.

That said, BTV’s decision to drop the U.S. NCAA coverage back in the 2013-14 season was the right choice considering its lack of popularity here. While it did manage to air the Final Four in April, it was done out of necessity since no other network was committed enough to air.

Although Creighton’s Kobe Paras is trying to lift the profile of U.S. NCAA basketball in the Philippines, one thing is clear. U.S. NCAA hoops will never become as popular as the NBA here, and that’s a painful fact.

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Philippines, Sports, television, United States

NCAA March Madness Belatedly Returns to Solar Sports, BTV

There will be US NCAA March Madness in the Philippines after all.

This weekend, Solar Sports and Basketball TV will join forces to cover Sunday’s Final Four and Tuesday’s National Championship of the US NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. Sunday’s games are as follows:

  • Villanova vs. Oklahoma (6:00 a.m. live on Solar Sports and Basketball TV)
  • Syracuse vs. North Carolina (8:45 a.m. live on Solar Sports and 10:30 a.m. delayed broadcast on Basketball TV)

The winners of the above games will face off in Tuesday’s National Championship. It will take place at 8:00 a.m. live on Solar Sports and Basketball TV.

This marks the return of the NCAA tournament to the Solar networks for the first time since 2013. Unfortunately, the return of March Madness to Solar was somewhat belated, due to a lack of interest from various networks.

Sports5, the rightsholder of the last two US NCAA March Madness tournaments, decided to back out owing to cost-cutting measures and the yearly observance of Holy Week. Fox Sports Philippines, who covers conference college tournaments, also did not express interest, and neither did ABS-CBN Sports due to its focus on the UAAP.

With no other options, Solar Sports decided to step in, but their involvement came way too late. As a result, they missed out covering the preliminaries, from the First Four to the Elite Eight.

Still, as far as Solar is concerned, it’s better late than never. After all, March Madness is considered a must-watch event, even if a few Filipinos religiously follow the tournament.

It remains to be seen whether or not Solar will be willing to cover another year or two of March Madness. But hopefully, once they express interest again, the coverage won’t be just the Final Four and the National Championship, but also the First Four, the rounds of 64 and 32, the Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight, for the full March Madness experience.

Good luck.

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entertainment, Philippines, Sports, television, United States

March Madness: Solar’s Loss is TV5’s Gain

Top-ranked pro prospect Andrew Wiggins and other college basketball stars will be in the spotlight as the US NCAA March Madness will air on TV5 and its affiliates.

This March, the US NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, more popularly known as ‘March Madness’, will be shown in the Philippines via the networks of TV5. The Kapatid network’s acquisition of March Madness gives the event some much-needed exposure on free TV, something that its previous coveror could not afford. But how did TV5 earn their ticket to ‘March Madness’?

For several years, coverage of March Madness was given to Solar Sports via its all-basketball channel Basketball TV. In addition to the NCAA tournament, the network also aired select regular season and postseason games from popular conferences such as the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Southeastern Conference, and the Pacific-10 (later Pacific-12) Conference. However, when BTV did not air any US NCAA college games this year, the March Madness coverage in the country was put into question.

Looking back, there were some shortcomings to BTV’s coverage of March Madness, and of US NCAA basketball in general. Because the network’s primary focus is on the NBA, coverage of regular season college basketball was restricted to tape-delay broadcasts, unlike in Fox Sports Philippines (formerly ESPN) where it can air the games live. Then come March Madness, BTV would be forced to tape-delay NBA games and air a minimum of one game per round, alienating some rabid NBA fans and even college basketball viewers.

With mounting pressure from its viewers, Solar and Basketball TV had no choice but to finally drop the US NCAA college basketball from its lineup. It wasn’t until late February that Sports5 decided to step up, announcing that it has acquired the rights for the US NCAA March Madness. Its announcement came just as the 2014 Winter Olympics on the Kapatid network was about to finish.

Sports5’s coverage of the US NCAA March Madness include free TV broadcasts of select games on TV5 and AksyonTV 41, complementary live broadcasts on cable network Hyper and Cignal HD pay-per-view, and live streaming though PLDT’s broadband services. This means that more games will be offered in each platform, giving college basketball fans additional options to watch their favorite US NCAA schools run towards the championship.

Now that TV5 and its affiliates will have the rights to the US NCAA March Madness, the countdown to the most highly-anticipated college basketball tournament in the world is underway. And college basketball fans can’t wait to watch.

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comedy, documentaries, drama, entertainment, music, news, Philippines, public affairs, Sports, television

Martinez Documentary, New ‘Kaya’ on TV5 and Other News

The Olympic journey of Michael Christian Martinez will be featured in the documentary ‘Hero on Ice’ tonight on TV5.

Tonight after ‘Aksyon Weekend’, TV5 will air a special 30-minute documentary called ‘Hero on Ice’. The documentary will focus on Michael Christian Martinez’s life, career, and journey that took him from the small SM rinks to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Along the way, viewers will be treated to an all-access look at Martinez’s trip to Sochi and his preparations for the event. Interviews with family and friends, as well as highlights of his Winter Olympics ice skating routines will also be featured.

As a bonus treat to viewers, the documentary will also look back at Martinez’s triumphant homecoming, followed by the press conference and a skating exhibition at the Mall of Asia rink. ‘Hero on Ice’ is hosted by Chiqui Roa-Puno, and will pre-empt ‘Magic Gimik Revealed’ in its timeslot.

Also on TV5, the documentary series ‘Kaya’ returns with a brand new episode, after giving way to ‘Yaman ng Bayan’ last week. In this episode entitled ‘Tindog’, DJ Sta. Ana will take a look at the rebuilding of Tacloban following its destruction from Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). The series airs after ‘Juan Direction’.

With regards to ‘SpinNation’ which is currently airing on repeats, the second season premiere of the program is currently being delayed by Jasmine Curtis-Smith’s taping schedule for her upcoming self-titled suspense/drama series ‘JasMINE’. The series is scheduled to begin this March 25 at 8 p.m., and will also star the likes of Alwyn Uytingco, Matt Padilla, and Vin Abrenica. Along with the weeknight comedy/drama series ‘Confessions of a Torpe’, the two series will highlight another busy month for the Kapatid network, which will also include the PBA Commissioner’s Cup and the US NCAA March Madness.

Speaking of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, the conference begins on March 5, a week after the end of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals. But contrary to what Commissioner Chito Salud had assured, and despite the recent high ratings of the recently concluded Philippine Cup playoffs, the airing schedule from the Philippine Cup eliminations will continue in the upcoming conference, with only the second game of the weekday doubleheaders, first game of Saturday doubleheaders, and both games of Sunday doubleheaders airing live on TV5. However all of the games will be shown live on AksyonTV.

And finally, the US NCAA March Madness will begin in mid-March, and like the preceding Winter Olympics, coverage of the games will be shared by TV5, AksyonTV, Hyper and Cignal HD. With that, good luck to TV5 and its affiliate stations on a busy month to come.

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