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1995 Flashback: The Rise and Fall of Citynet 27

Citynet 27 was the first UHF station owned by a major broadcast network. Sadly, the station lasted only six years and endured three major rebrands during that span. (Logo courtesy of GMA Network)

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.

ABS-CBN’s UHF TV network (currently ABS-CBN Sports+Action) has been on the air since 1996, but they’re not the first major network to have a sister UHF channel.

That distinction belonged to GMA Network’s original sister TV station, Citynet 27.  Established on August 27, 1995, the station became the fifth UHF TV network in the country, after SBN-21, DZEE-23 (the predecessor to ABS-CBN’s UHF channel), RJTV-29 and CTV-31.

Citynet 27’s initial focus was on canned programming (mostly from the U.S.), ranging from sitcoms, dramas and action series to sporting events. These programs were moved from GMA-7 in order for the latter to add more local programming.

The channel soon faced intense competition with the launch of Studio 23. While Citynet remained the premiere source for upscale-laden programs, it became clear that GMA is losing money from this venture, and by 1999, Studio 23’s continued emergence and popularity prove to be too much for Citynet to handle.

As a result, GMA had no choice but to reformat Citynet 27 into a music video channel. Initially known as EMC (Entertainment Music Channel), GMA soon joined forces with STAR TV to carry Channel V Philippines, and the rebranded station was launched near the end of 1999.

However, the partial acquisition of GMA’s stake by PLDT (later re-sold to Felipe Gozon, etc.) forced Channel V Philippines to sign off in mid-2001. Among the primary reasons include conflict of interest (PLDT owned MTV Philippines through Nation Broadcasting Company) and increasing competition with MTVPH and the newly-launched MYX.

GMA was left without a sister channel for the next four years. Then in 2005, they entered into a lease agreement with ZOE-TV and launched QTV (later rebranded as GMA News TV), with Channel 27 briefly serving as a repeater.

Today, DWDB 27 is currently inactive, possibly for future use as a digital TV outlet. The station would have turned 20 this year had GMA kept it active.

To this day, GMA continues to regret its failed experiment of Citynet 27. With the network now enduring some financial issues, they can only hope that the lessons of Citynet 27 will be applied to whatever decisions they will make moving forward.

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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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business, news, Philippines, television

Collapse of GMA-Ang Deal Further Baffles GMA’s Business Operations

A deal between Ramon S. Ang and GMA has been terminated for unspecified reasons, furthering the already troubled business operations of the Kapuso network. (Photo credit: San Miguel Corporation)

The resuscitation of GMA Network has once again hit a roadblock.

It was announced Tuesday that talks between the said network and businessman Ramon S. Ang for the latter’s acquisition of a 30% share have been terminated. Responding to this sudden turn of events, Ang called the move surprising and unexpected, and promised to wait for any explanation by GMA regarding the situation at hand.

This was not the first time that talks between GMA and a potential investor have ended without any conclusive results. PLDT and TV5 chairman Manny V. Pangilinan have also entered talks to acquire a portion of GMA’s shares in 2001, 2004, 2012 and 2014, only to collapse in the end.

The latest development involving Ang and GMA marked the latest chapter in the decline and mismanagement of the network. Just recently, the Kapuso network have been involved in a pair of un-Kapuso-like decisions in relation to its business operations.

Late last year, 52 GMA employees were laid off while fighting for the regularization of their services, leading to a protest by the group known as ‘Talents Association of GMA’ (TAG). Claiming there were ‘unfair labor practices’, the group recently held a protest in front of the GMA headquarters in Timog Avenue.

Then in late April, GMA closed down four regional offices, canceled a pair of regional morning programs, and laid off at least 100 employees. The network claimed that they were merely streamlining its operations in order to increase ratings and revenue.

Coupled with still-declining ratings and programming quality, it is now clear why GMA is going nowhere. The lack of urgency to improve and expand the business is taking its toll on the network.

And it only made worse with its latest debacle involving Ramon S. Ang.

This is now a hopeless situation for Felipe Gozon, Gilberto Duavit and the rest of GMA management. Without any support from other investors, GMA is destined to become an afterthought in the media industry, something they cannot afford to happen.

They desperately need a new investor at this point. Perhaps a sit-down discussion with SM’s Henry Sy and family may help.

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