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

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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