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

In and Out: TV5 Announces, Then Pulls Out NFL

Unless things change, the NFL will not be seen on Philippine television in the foreseeable future after Sports Illustrated Asia backed out and TV5 pulled out any scheduled games from its lineup. (Photo courtesy of the National Football League)

America’s most popular sport appears to be on its way out of the Philippines.

Sports Illustrated Asia, formerly the All-Sports Network (ASN), dropped the NFL from its lineup of programs at the start of the 2017 season. The channel best known for airing the National Hockey League, U.S. NCAA college football and college basketball had been broadcasting NFL games for nearly a decade now.

Almost simultaneously, TV5 announced that they will carry NFL games this season. But as soon as they placed the schedule of NFL games on its website, they decided to pull them out at the last minute in favor of ‘Movie Max 5’.

This means that for the first time in decades, the NFL will not be seen on Philippine television this season (unless one network will air the Super Bowl this February). It’s a shame considering that the league has had a long and distinguished love affair with Filipino sports fans and American expats, even though it falls behind basketball, volleyball and soccer in terms of local popularity.

Going back to TV5, the last-minute pullout of NFL games is the latest in a series of blunders committed by the network this month. Last week, TV5 ceased airing Cartoon Network and Boomerang shows in favor of TV shopping and movies, then in another last-minute move, they postponed anew the premiere of Brillante Mendoza’s ‘Amo’.

These moves are typical of Chot Reyes’ incompetence as a network executive. Once lauded for promoting the network’s ‘Choose Courage’ mantra, Chot’s questionable decisions has now turned the slogan into a joke.

The NFL, despite its lack of popularity in the Philippines, would have filled TV5’s suddenly moribund schedule. Had it aired as scheduled, people would have praised Chot Reyes for this fearless and courageous move.

Instead, Chot retreated like a coward and instructed his staff to pull them out in favor of endless Tagalized movies and TV shopping blocks. Which leads to where TV5 is now, a network lacking any sense of direction.

Considering the expensive broadcast rights of the NFL, perhaps TV5 was right in not pursuing the league. But without a ‘Plan B’, all signs point to Chot Reyes becoming a pariah in the world of Philippine television.

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Philippines, Sports, television, United States

Despite Airing March Madness, US NCAA Remains Out of BTV’s Equation

Creighton star Kobe Paras may be making his presence felt in the U.S. NCAA, but the league's lack of popularity in his home country continues to be a problem. (Photo credit: Fox Sports Asia)

Creighton star Kobe Paras may be making waves in the U.S. NCAA, but the league’s lack of popularity in his home country continues to be a problem. (Photo credit: Fox Sports Asia)

It is obvious that U.S. college basketball will never get the respect it deserves from Filipino hoop fans.

Such is the case for the U.S. NCAA men’s basketball tournament. While top conference tournaments such as the ACC, PAC-12 and the Big 12 air regularly on the FOX Sports family of networks and Sports Illustrated Asia, one network in the Philippines is noticeably absent.

The network in question is Solar Entertainment’s Basketball TV, who back in April aired the U.S. NCAA Final Four and Championship games alongside Solar Sports. Unfortunately, the network’s emphasis on the more popular NBA once again put into question their commitment to air next year’s March Madness, let alone the entire U.S. NCAA season.

The last time BTV actually aired regular season U.S. NCAA basketball games was back in the 2012-13 season. This was also the last time the network aired March Madness prior to last April.

The history between the U.S. NCAA and Basketball TV date back to the fledgling network’s first season in 2006-07. Back then, the network was home to several popular conference tournaments, and they also aired a select number of March Madness games as well.

Unfortunately, U.S. college basketball failed to make an imprint in the consciousness of Filipino hoop fans. Unlike the UAAP or the Filipino NCAA where its rules are based on FIBA’s template (hence a faster style of play), the U.S. NCAA employs a unique set of rules such as 20-minute halves, 30 or 35-second shot clocks, and one-and-one free throw situations.

It also did not help that U.S. college basketball players are essentially obscure names. The fact is, for Filipino hoop fans, they will only gain popularity if they were drafted in the NBA and play well there.

That said, BTV’s decision to drop the U.S. NCAA coverage back in the 2013-14 season was the right choice considering its lack of popularity here. While it did manage to air the Final Four in April, it was done out of necessity since no other network was committed enough to air.

Although Creighton’s Kobe Paras is trying to lift the profile of U.S. NCAA basketball in the Philippines, one thing is clear. U.S. NCAA hoops will never become as popular as the NBA here, and that’s a painful fact.

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