entertainment, Philippines, Sports, television

Evaluating the First Month of the NCAA on ABS-CBN Sports V.2

The NCAA’s return to ABS-CBN Sports has been a good one so far. (Logo courtesy of the NCAA)

The second incarnation of the NCAA on ABS-CBN Sports is now a month old.

The oldest collegiate league in the country returned to ABS-CBN Sports in hopes of getting back on track. So far, though, viewers were treated to a slightly similar broadcast approach as the one that Sports5 previously handled, with a few differences of course.

Here’s a look at how ABS-CBN was able to make their mark on the league so far.

Use of Taglish

Unexpectedly, the network decided to use Taglish while calling the games. In their first run from 2002-12, ABS-CBN Sports announcers called the NCAA games in English, but with Sports+Action increasingly attracting a mass audience, the use of Taglish was necessitated.

This was the same approach that TV5 used when they covered the NCAA, but unfortunately for them, they failed to catch on for various reasons.

Emphasis on Social Media

The NCAA on ABS-CBN Sports also tapped in a new market called social media. Throughout each game, tweets and Instagram posts from players, fans and even basketball enthusiasts are read by the announcers in relation to the game at hand, with an official hashtag to boot.

They even allow announcers to take pre-game selfies (a novel practice in sports broadcasting), which are then posted to their individual Instagram accounts. And for the curious viewers, graphics of the announcers’ names now include their Twitter and/or Instagram accounts.

New Announcers

Speaking of announcers, ABS-CBN Sports employed a mix of young and experienced broadcasters to the NCAA game. Anton Roxas and Andrei Felix were carried over from the original incarnation, while Boom Labrusca, who also doubles as a courtside reporter, is a neophyte to the play-by-play profession.

Unlike TV5 which used former professional players as analysts, ABS-CBN hired mostly former collegiate standouts in order to relate better with the college game. The network has used Mikee Reyes, Migs Bustos, Martin Antonio and Olsen Racela to analyze the games, with Racela having also worked with the Sports5 crew in the past.

Familiar and Not-So Familiar Courtside Reporters

Those who have watched the NCAA so far may notice some familiar and unsuspecting faces to the courtside reporter spot. Before the season began, ABS-CBN Sports announced that cosplayer, Hero TV jock and former ‘Pinoy Big Brother’ housemate Myrtle Sarrosa would be one of the courtside reporters for the season.

Since then, Myrtle was joined by the aforementioned Boom Labrusca, followed by Ceej Tantengco and Rox Montealegre. Quite a familiar bunch, but one with little experience to the world of sports.

The ABS-CBN Sports courtside reporters have three different responsibilities:

  1. To report on the teams’ strategies,
  2. To interview a player’s family members and friends, school alumni, students or fans, and
  3. To interview players and coaches during pregame and postgame (if applicable)

The said strategy is similar to what TV5 employed, but with less on-cam time.

Halftime Presentations

Halftime of each game usually consists of a brief glimpse of a school’s cheering exhibition, followed by a special feature and an analysis of the first half. For the viewers who had enough of TV5’s radical changes (e.g. Moneyball), this is a welcome development to bring back the intended mission of the NCAA: to promote loyalty, camaraderie and school spirit.

HD Broadcasts and Return of Smart and PLDT

In a surprise move, ABS-CBN welcomed Smart and PLDT as sponsors. The two telecommunications outfits are a sister company of ABS-CBN’s competitor TV5, which is a stunning move to say the least.

And finally, the NCAA games are now broadcast in its full 16:9 HD glory. While ABS-CBN Sports was the first to broadcast an event in HD, they did not fully take advantage of the new technology until this year.

So far, it’s been a beneficial first month of NCAA coverage. And while some would disagree with these moves, ABS-CBN is clearly intent on taking serious steps to make the NCAA more appealing to the masses.

The season is still a long way to go, but from the looks of it, the NCAA has found a perfect partner to thrive with. With a few tweaks, expect this partnership to last a lot longer.

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Philippines, Sports, television

Overview: NCAA Season 91 on ABS-CBN Sports

The NCAA Season 91 begins this Saturday, with San Beda trying to win an unprecedented sixth seniors’ title in a row. (Photo credit: Philstar.com)

NCAA Season 91 is five days away.

The latest season of the Philippines’ oldest collegiate league will emanate from the Mall of Asia Arena, where the opening ceremonies and a seniors basketball doubleheader will kick things off. The doubleheader will pit defending champion San Beda versus season host Mapua, and Season 90 runner-up Arellano against perennial contender JRU.

It will also be a homecoming of sorts, as ABS-CBN Sports will once again handle the television broadcasts for the NCAA games. The said network recently inked a ten-year contract that would lead up to the league’s centennial season.

A new format for weekly games is also in order. Like last season, seven seniors games will be held per week, but the new scheme will now feature doubleheaders on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a tripleheader on Fridays.

Other than the opening doubleheaders, which are scheduled at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, all games in the first round will be held at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan. The second round schedule, to be released once the first round is finished, will feature most games in San Juan and may feature some marquee games at the MOA.

All of the aforementioned games will be aired live on ABS-CBN Sports+Action, and will be simulcast in high definition on Balls HD. Online livestreaming of the games will also be available on sports.abs-cbn.com, while same-day replays will be aired in the evening on Balls.

ABS-CBN Sports will utilize the following on-air talents for the NCAA games (tentative as of June 23, 2015):

Play-by-play

  • Anton Roxas
  • Andrei Felix

Analysts

  • Martin Antonio
  • Migs Bustos
  • Mikee Reyes
  • Allan Gregorio
  • Olsen Racela

Courtside reporter

  • Myrtle Sarrosa

By all accounts, it seems that ABS-CBN Sports will be using TV5’s approach in handling games, at least for this season. But don’t expect Moneyball or some other gimmick to show up during ABS-CBN’s coverage.

The selection of Sarrosa as the sole courtside reporter was also an interesting decision by network management, since ABS-CBN Sports popularized the use of students as courtside reporters for their schools. But with the network short of time to prepare for the NCAA games, they decided to tap the ‘Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition 4’ winner instead.

In addition to seniors basketball, ABS-CBN Sports will also air highlights to the other NCAA disciplines. Finals of juniors basketball and the final four of women’s volleyball will likewise be aired.

The return of the NCAA to ABS-CBN Sports should help reestablish order and prominence within the league. It remains to be seen if the latter can improve the shortcomings that Sports5 endured, but from their previous experience covering the NCAA, they should do just fine.

NCAA Season 91 unwraps this Saturday at 12:00 p.m. on ABS-CBN Sports+Action, Balls HD and sports.abs-cbn.com.

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Philippines, Sports, television

Remembering the NCAA on TV5

Adios, NCAA on TV5.

In one month, the 91st season of the NCAA will get underway. The league will have a new (or old) media partner going forward, as they joined forces with ABS-CBN Sports beginning this season.

But before we look ahead to the league’s return to the Kapamilya group, let us reflect on the three-year relationship between the NCAA and TV5.

Ambitious Beginnings

The NCAA joined forces with Sports5 prior to Season 88. The games were first broadcast on the AKTV on IBC-13 block, with a Monday-Thursday-Saturday schedule and a 4:00 p.m. start time.

The league also held a pair of provincial playdates in an effort to attract new fans. But to fans’ dismay, neither of the out-of-town games were aired on AKTV, a predicament that continued the next season with AksyonTV.

AKTV also employed full-time sideline reporters as opposed to student representatives/OJTs used by ABS-CBN Sports. They also deviated from ABS-CBN’s practice of showing cheering squads at halftime, and instead used the time to read netizens’ tweets and talk to fans of opposing schools.

And of course, a new partner means a new broadcast staff. Sports5 elected to employ a younger cast of announcers, as opposed to a more veteran-laden team during the ABS-CBN era, in hopes of connecting to younger fans.

Brewing Troubles and Change of Stations

The first sign of trouble for the NCAA on Sports5 took place in the Season 88 Finals. Game 3 of the San Beda-Letran series was aired on TV5 but on a more unfavorable early afternoon slot, a scenario that was repeated in the following year’s finals between the same two teams.

Then in May 2013, Mediaquest and TV5 decided to end their blocktime deal with IBC-13. This forced Sports5 to move the league’s games to AksyonTV, a decision that didn’t sit well with the viewers due to the station’s poor reach and accessibility.

Worse, the lack of an online livestreaming platform only exacerbated the situation, especially during heavily prioritized live news events such as the State of the Nation Address. Although Sports5 managed to provide a livestreaming platform by Season 90, the damage was already done at that point.

A Last-Ditch Effort By TV5

Season 90 saw a select number of games aired on the flagship TV5, in hopes of addressing the need for wider access. Still, a few games that ran overtime were cut off TV5 in favor of Aksyon Prime (a decision known as the ‘Heidi Moment’), something that was not experienced when ABS-CBN Sports (via Studio 23, now ABS-CBN Sports+Action) had the rights.

The TV5 games also featured the infamous Moneyball game that was first implemented during the network’s PBA coverage. The presence of Moneyball took away the school spirit aspect of the game, as it prevented the league’s fans from watching the performance of the cheering squads at halftime.

Even though TV5 aired a select number of games that season, AksyonTV still had a major presence on the NCAA coverage. The addition of TV5 did little to increase attention to the league’s games, despite a major promotional campaign that signified the NCAA as ‘Ang Larong Tunay’ (A True Game).

Aftermath

In the end, the ambitious plans of TV5 for the NCAA backfired. The demise of AKTV proved too much, as it affected whatever grand plans the Kapatid network has had in making the NCAA more competitive and attractive to viewers.

Promotion of the league was also a problem, as Sports5 continues to prioritize the PBA. Furthermore, the constant change in channels, along with the use of unorthodox gimmicks such as Moneyball, the lack of modern technologies, and the use of full-time reporters as opposed to student representatives, only hastened the decline.

The final straw for the NCAA on TV5 took place once their regular on-air announcers were elevated to the PBA. In hindsight, it was clear that TV5 has had enough; even though they tried to offer an extension, the NCAA felt the time to move on was now.

And so it did. From now on, it’s ABS-CBN Sports’ turn once more. And the NCAA couldn’t be happier.

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