Philippines, Sports, television, United States

Tipid Mode: ABS-CBN’s Call of NBA Finals No Longer On-Site in Recent Years

Talk about cutting costs.

In case no one has paid attention yet, the Filipino-language commentary of the 2018 NBA Finals on ABS-CBN Channel 2 is currently held inside the network’s studios in Quezon City. No, not in Oakland, California or in Cleveland, Ohio.

Unless you’re TJ Manotoc who made the trip to the U.S. alone for the past five years (this year’s Finals will be his first since getting the call to join ABS-CBN’s North America Bureau), the commentators have stayed home for the most part. And there are reasons why they were no longer required to take the trip stateside to call the Finals.

First off, there are concerns surrounding budget. Considering the network’s long-term vision of digitalization, anything that involves plane tickets, hotel reservations, visas and working permits for at least a three-week trip may be too much of a burden for ABS-CBN.

It also did not help that the NBA returned to a 2-2-1-1-1 setup for the Finals starting in 2014. Going back and forth to different cities between Games 4-7 only adds to the cost.

Next, ABS-CBN is on a tight schedule. They made the NBA Finals available in both Channel 2 and S+A (and in different commentary languages) for this particular reason because the former has a strict schedule to follow, whereas the latter has greater flexibility with it.

In the case of overtime games like what happened in Game 1 last Friday, Channel 2 immediately ended its broadcast within minutes of the final buzzer in order to make way for ‘Sana Dalawa ang Puso’. This means that the local commentators would have no choice but to immediately bid farewell rather than dive deeper into the game.

And finally, ABS-CBN changed its commentary approach in the Finals in order to appeal to the masses. Which is why, whether traditional basketball viewers liked it or not, they hired Benjie Paras to join alongside Ronnie Magsanoc and Boom Gonzalez in order to describe the game in a simpler manner to fit the average Filipino’s needs.

Sending this trio stateside may be awkward to begin with considering their more liberal and oftentimes unorthodox style of commentary. But they were promoted to call the Finals for a reason: to make the NBA game easier for Filipino masses to understand.

With all due respect to the likes of Quinito Henson and Andy Jao (who were the first to actually call an NBA Finals direct from the U.S.), times are really changing. And ABS-CBN’s rather radical decision to stay home than call the Finals stateside may be their wisest decision yet considering their plans for the long-term.

People may not like this new approach but there is no other option. ABS-CBN is thinking about the future, and viewers must understand it.

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Philippines, Sports, television, United States

PBA’s Inconsistent Broadcasting Crews in the Finals

Big games such as the PBA Finals need only the top broadcast team, but instead the league has suffered because of its broadcast partners’ constant shuffling of their announcing teams.

The PBA has had a long history of shuffling its broadcast crews during the Finals, and the 2013 PBA Governors’ Cup Finals is no exception. Some things do not work out for the better, and for the PBA and its broadcast partners, it may be a matter of time before deciding that only one broadcast team is enough to describe the action of every Finals game.

TV5’s coverage of the PBA currently has no de facto No. 1 or No. 2 broadcast team. Instead the network assigns a variety of play-by-play announcers, color analysts, sideline reporters and studio hosts to work every game, including the Finals. That constant shuffling leads me to these questions. Who is really the No. 1 play-by-play man, Magoo Marjon or Mico Halili? And who is really the No. 1 analyst, Jason Webb or Quinito Henson?

During ABS-CBN’s recent coverage of the UAAP Men’s Basketball Finals, they only used Boom Gonzalez and TJ Manotoc to work every game. The duo were also assigned to cover the recent NBA Finals locally. The usage of just one broadcast team in the Finals ensures a high quality, consistent and smooth description of the action as the games get tougher. Just ask the American announcers at every sport.

Only the top broadcast teams have the honor of calling the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Stanley Cup Finals and the NBA Finals. They were trained to call big games involving the great players, and their experiences at calling the game gave them the honor of being called up to announce a championship series. That is why the likes of Mike Breen, Joe Buck, Jim Nantz, Al Michaels and Mike Emrick have been so successful at their craft because they earned their stripes calling the game involving the best players and the best teams. And their broadcast partners in Jeff Van Gundy, Troy Aikman, Tim McCarver, Phil Simms, Cris Collinsworth and Eddie Olczyk proved capable of providing a deeper analysis of the game through their intuition and knowledge.

It is a different story though when it comes to TV5’s PBA Finals coverage. On some nights it would be Magoo Marjon and an assigned color man, other nights will see Mico Halili, Charlie Cuna or Rado Dimalibot work play-by-play with an assigned analyst. Even the sideline reporter and studio host assignments are a revolving door. Several of the personalities even play two different roles; Halili, for instance, worked as both a studio host and a play-by-play man. This is not the case in the United States, where the two roles are separate from each other.

TV5 has to make a decision on who is really the No. 1 broadcast team. Both Halili and Marjon have the capability to be the No. 1 guy, but in terms of experience and big-game minutes, I had to give it to Halili because of his extensive broadcast work. As for the analyst spot Henson should have been the man, but due to his part-time status and multiple roles, I had to give it to Jason Webb for his youth, exuberance and knowledge of the game. TV5 needs only ONE broadcast crew for the Finals, and the Halili-Webb partnership may be the needed answer.

The PBA needs to carefully handle its broadcasts. They have already suffered from TV5’s broadcasting issues prior to the Governors’ Cup, and now with the rigodon of personalities calling the Finals, it is clear that PBA’s television coverage is lacking in both identity and distinction, one that would put them at par with the UAAP coverage on ABS-CBN Sports.

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