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

Solar Sports, BTV Cancel Airing of NCRUCLAA

A month after the season opened, Basketball TV and Solar Sports unexpectedly pulled the plug on the NCRUCLAA coverage. (Logos courtesy of the NCRUCLAA and Solar Entertainment)

A month after the season opened, Basketball TV and Solar Sports unexpectedly pulled the plug on the NCRUCLAA coverage. (Logos courtesy of the NCRUCLAA and Solar Entertainment)

The promising television coverage of the NCRUCLAA (National Capital Region Universities and Colleges of Luzon Athletic Association) came to an abrupt halt.

For some unknown reason, host networks Solar Sports and Basketball TV decided to stop airing the fledgling collegiate basketball league after only a month’s worth of coverage. No explanation was given with regards to the sudden cancellation, but a possible case of low funds may have come into play.

It can be recalled that the newly-established NCRUCLAA signed a television contract with Solar Entertainment in December of last year. The league, which consists of 16 member schools, opened its basketball season on January 17.

Both Solar Sports and Basketball TV tried its very best to seriously promote the NCRUCLAA. Unfortunately, the game’s delayed coverage and overwhelming amount of matches (quadruple-headers start at around 11:00 a.m.), lack of advertisers and conflicts with other programming took its toll, and by late February, both networks ceased airing the league’s games.

The issues of local basketball coverage is nothing new to Solar Entertainment. During their three seasons handling the PBA (2008-11), Solar lost a lot of money due to technical issues hounding their coverage of the league, and in their final season, they were forced to move to rival ABS-CBN’s Studio 23 following CS9’s rebrand to ETC.

Going further back, Solar also used to handle the defunct Philippine Basketball League for a few seasons. Unfortunately, the league’s internal issues affected both the coverage and the quality of the games, and the PBL soon disappeared by 2011.

While Solar did make amends when they aired NAASCU games without any incident last year, it was clear that the company can only go as far as Wilson Tieng can take them. Which leads to the abrupt cancellation of NCRUCLAA coverage, one that is once again giving Solar plenty of headaches.

That said, without the additional financial backing of rivals ABS-CBN Sports and Sports5, Solar Sports continues to find themselves in a predicament that is too steep to climb out. They may have had the privilege of covering NBA games and Manny Pacquiao fights, but local coverage-wise, they are still too far behind to make an impact.

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entertainment, Philippines, Sports, television

1995 Flashback: The Beginning of the End for PTV’s Sports Coverage

1995 was a memorable year in Philippine television. As part of a year-long special, From the Tube will look back at a year full of historical debuts, unforgettable moments, and celebrated feats in the history of television in the country.

Sports coverage on the People’s Television Network (PTV-4) was at its peak in 1995.

That year, PTV was the major broadcast home for the following events:

  • PBA 21st season (co-produced with Vintage Sports)
  • Chiang Mai Southeast Asian Games
  • UAAP Season 58 men’s basketball (co-produced with Silverstar Sports)
  • Philippine Basketball League
  • NCAA Season 71 men’s basketball (albeit sparingly)

Of the five events, the coverage of the Philippine Basketball Association was PTV’s biggest asset. After all, the PBA was at its peak of popularity during the PTV years, with sellout crowds a regular occurrence at the ULTRA (later PhilSports Arena) and later on at the Cuneta Astrodome.

But in 1995, all that would change in the blink of an eye.

(The final two minutes of PTV-4’s PBA coverage on December 19, 1995.)

As it turned out, the 21st PBA season would be the last to air on Channel 4 for nearly a decade. That season saw a near-grandslam for the Sunkist Orange Juicers, in which they won the All-Filipino and Commissioner’s Cups, only to finish third in the Governors’ Cup won by the following season’s Grand Slam winners, the Alaska Milkmen.

At this point, the PBA’s popularity was fading, despite returning to the now-Smart Araneta Coliseum after nearly a decade away. Thus, after the conclusion of the 21st season, Vintage decided to move the PBA coverage from PTV to the Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC-13), where they would drastically change their coverage in hopes of attracting the masses.

PTV’s sports portfolio gradually declined in the years following the loss of PBA coverage (the PBA did return to the renamed National Broadcasting Network in a failed partnership with IBC-13 in 2002).  Massive operating losses, along with competition from cable networks, forced Channel 4 to let go of broadcast rights to leagues such as the UAAP, and events such as the SEA Games and the Olympics.

Even though PTV Sports remained active through their coverage of lesser-known events, it is clear that they’re no longer a force in sports coverage. Today, PTV’s programming is more akin to a non-profit public broadcasting network, where they produce programs with little or no commercial support.

While the PBA is currently enjoying renewed popularity with Sports5, the years with PTV-4 will always be remembered as the glory days of the league. And even after the PBA left PTV for other networks in 1995, Channel 4’s partnership with the league will never be forgotten.

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