Philippines, Sports, television

Goodbye AKTV

After nearly two years on air, AKTV signs off for good. But problems within TV5’s sports division continue to persist today. (Logo courtesy of ABC Development Corporation)

On May 31, 2013, the AKTV on IBC 13 block aired for the last time. As reported over a month ago, Mediaquest has decided not to renew the blocktime contract with IBC 13, which expired in May. With AKTV ceasing to exist, Sports5‘s properties are being moved to AksyonTV and Hyper starting this month.

The AKTV programming block made its rousing debut in August 2011 with the Smart All-Star Ultimate Challenge, pitting the Gilas national team and an all-PBA selection against NBA players led by Kobe Bryant. In October, AKTV became the home of the PBA, airing all of its games for the next two years. Over the next few months, AKTV aired sports events like soccer’s United Football LeaguePremier League, La Liga and Bundesliga, the 2012 London Olympic Games, the NCAA, PBA D-League and professional boxing, among others. However, mounting costs, coupled with lack of profits, forced TV5 management not to renew its block-time agreement after two years.

The signs that AKTV’s days were numbered showed after the PBA allowed to air the recently concluded Commissioner’s Cup Final on TV5. In addition, IBC decided to reduce AKTV’s programming hours during the weekends. Originally the block aired for 12 hours on weekends, but was reduced to six hours in the block’s final few months. As AKTV was winding down, Mediaquest was scrambling to find a new network for its UFL and incoming NCAA coverage, which AksyonTV was able to oblige.

AksyonTV is no stranger to airing sports coverage. In its infancy, it aired a boxing match featuring Filipina Ana Julaton, but has since deferred from airing further sports in favor of news and public affairs. However, with AKTV no longer in the equation, AksyonTV had no other choice but to air the UFL, the PBA D-League and the upcoming NCAA season.

The demise of AKTV exposed TV5’s budgetary deficiencies. By committing too much on several sports properties without giving enough time to tinker and experiment, they lost so much money, and by the time the deal expired, they scrambled to get their sports properties on another channel. The 2012 London Olympics was a broadcasting failure, both in expenses and revenue. Also their more recent venture with the NCAA had an adverse effect on its budget. The ‘AKTV Center’ before PBA games, though well-viewed, was unnecessary. Perhaps the network’s owner Manny V. Pangilinan had a full pocket that he spent lavishly on it, without realizing how to conserve them. With all that in mind, it is clear that TV5 wants to be a cut above the rest, at par with competitors ABS-CBN and GMA 7. But instead their free-spending ways betrayed them in the end.

I already wrote about GMA 7’s lack of a sports division before. Perhaps GMA should step up already. Then again, neither will GMA 7’s ownership be serious enough to acquire the sports properties that TV5 has. Until then, TV5 should remain committed with what they have now, regardless of how their budget would play a role. Otherwise it will be a long season for the still-fledgling network.

Philippines, Sports, television

Why GMA 7 Lacks a Sports Division?


GMA 7 is way behind its competitors in producing high-end sports programming. The Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Robert Guerrero fight co-produced with Solar Sports doesn’t help its cause. (Screenshot courtesy of GMA Network)


For the past few days GMA 7 has been airing program advisories regarding the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Robert Guerrero fight for Sunday. The fight, according to the 30-second teaser, is a co-production of GMA 7 and Solar Entertainment. In a truest sense, GMA 7 did not promote the fight by themselves, but rather through a long-term co-production agreement with Solar that included the Manny Pacquiao fights.

The truth is, there is no such thing as ‘GMA Sports’ or a ‘GMA Sports Division’ for any matter. They were there just to collaborate instead of going solo. In fact, in terms of promoting sports programming, GMA 7 is way behind its competitors ABS-CBN and TV5. Currently ABS-CBN Sports produces the NBA games, the UAAP, Top Rank and ALA boxing, and soccer events such as the Philippine Azkals and UEFA Champions League. In addition, its sports cable network Balls currently air Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts and various other sports such as golf and tennis. Sports5 produces the PBA games, the NCAA, the PXC, the Smart Gilas team events, and the United Football League, with its cable sports network Hyper airing various other sports events. And GMA 7? Aside from the Pacquiao and Mayweather fights, their only known brand of sports programming is the Shakey’s V-League, currently airing on sister network GMA News TV, as well as its two Sunday programs Sports Pilipinas and All-Sports; the latter contrary to its name airs mostly boxing bouts.

Back in the 1980s, when the Philippines was still recovering from the Ferdinand Marcos regime, GMA 7 was known to air the NBA and NFL games on a delayed basis. During the mid-1990s, their defunct UHF channel Citynet 27 aired NBA games on weekends. At the time, GMA 7 was the network of choice for sports aficionados, with the exception of PBA games aired on PTV-4 and later IBC-13.

Then came ABS-CBN and Studio 23, who started the ABS-CBN Sports Division by founding the defunct MBA, a professional sports league different from the PBA in terms of regional teams and nationwide reach. After the MBA folded, they acquired the rights to air the UAAP, which they still have today. From that point, ABS-CBN Sports grew and prospered, bolstered by the popularity of the UAAP, the Philippine Azkals, and the sport of boxing. In 2008, Balls Channel was established, and acquired the rights to air UFC events a few months later.

Not to be outdone, TV5 started to make a serious bid towards establishing their own sports department. Back when they were ABC-5, they acquired the rights to air PBA games in 2004, and continued to air its games until 2008. After a three-year rebuilding program where the network was acquired by Manny Pangilinan and renamed TV5, the network’s sports arm was reestablished as Sports5. They reacquired the rights for PBA games from Solar Entertainment in 2011, and then added the UFL. They then acquired the rights to air the NCAA from ABS-CBN in June 2012. Also that year, their cable sports network Hyper started airing, and made its grand introduction with the blow-by-blow coverage of the London Olympics. Even though the AKTV block on IBC-13 is about to end in May 2013, Sports5 remains committed to the PBA and is looking to air its games on TV5 soon.

With its competitors establishing their own sports arm, GMA 7 tried in vain to put up a bid for the airing of  various sports leagues such as the PBA and UAAP. Unfortunately the lack of a serious bidder and revenue issues hurt GMA 7. So where did they go? They decided to focus on the ‘Pambansang Kamao‘, Manny Pacquiao. Through a co-production agreement with Solar Sports, the network began to air delayed and commercial-infested coverage of Pacquiao fights in 2007, and continues to do so today. They even went as far as signing Pacquiao as a talent and gave him programs such as ‘Manny Many Prizes’ and ‘Show Me Da Manny’. Unfortunately, GMA’s decision came back to haunt PacMan, as he lost via knockout to Juan Manuel Marquez in his recent fight. And aside from that, nothing else came from the mouths of GMA management.

So where does GMA 7 go in terms of sports development? As of now, their only known sports programming are Manny Pacquiao fights, the Shakey’s V-League, and its Sports Pilipinas and All-Sports programs on News TV. They are way behind the competition in terms of developing and promoting future athletes. They are too focused towards spending lavishly on their teleseryes and films, along with crafting new programs in desperation against their rivals’ more popular counterparts. Unless they are serious in putting up a bid to air a particular league or promotion in the near future, GMA 7 will always be at the bottom of the pack in terms of bringing quality sports programming to the Filipino.