action, Philippines, Sports, television, United States

WWE Out of ABS-CBN Sports?

The Daniel Bryan vs. the Authority angle will not be seen on free TV’s ABS-CBN Sports + Action for now.

Looks like the ‘Road to WrestleMania’ ended way too soon for ABS-CBN Sports.

In an unexpected development, WWE programming was pulled out of the ABS-CBN Sports + Action channel at the beginning of March, and were replaced by either the Ultimate Fighting Championship, UEFA Champions League, Pinoy Pride and Top Rank Boxing, or the NBA. The pullout of WWE programs by ABS-CBN Sports comes in three years after Solar Entertainment’s Jack TV decided to cease airing all WWE programs.

As expected, some wrestling fans were angered by ABS-CBN’s decision to cancel its broadcast of the WWE. However, the reaction only paled in comparison to Solar’s pullout three years earlier, where an overwhelming majority of wrestling fans balked at the one-hour international format of Raw, the absence of SmackDown and Main Event (both currently airing on FOX Philippines), and the delayed broadcast of WWE pay-per-views on the Kapamilya’s UHF channel.

The absence of WWE programming on ABS-CBN Sports may have stemmed from the fact that the Vince McMahon-owned company recently established the WWE Network after the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. As many wrestling fans know, the new network is expected to carry every WWE pay-per-view beginning with WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans. Because of that, ABS-CBN Sports may find it difficult to even broadcast the upcoming WrestleMania 30 in both SkyCable and Sports + Action, considering the already complicated situation.

Should ABS-CBN Sports officially close the door on the WWE, Fox needs to step up. While the channel already has SmackDown and Main Event along with other supplementary programs like Vintage, Afterburn and Bottomline, what Fox needs at this point are both Raw and the pay-per-views in order to satisfy the demands of loyal wrestling viewers. If that happens, perhaps a return to a two or three-hour format for Raw and free live pay-per-views is in order, provided that Fox airs WWE programs on the same week as the U.S.

The loss of WWE should not be a big deal for Kapamilya viewers. After all, there is the Ultimate Fighting Championship, another form of combat sports which is just as entertaining, but without the scripted excess that is featured in professional wrestling. However, it remains to be seen whether or not free TV will once again accept the WWE.

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news, Philippines, reality show, Sports, talk show, television

Introducing ABS-CBN Sports + Action

ABS-CBN Sports + Action will make its on-air debut tomorrow, replacing Studio 23.

Channel 23 on the UHF band has a new name. It was announced during a press conference in Makati yesterday morning that the name of the said channel will be called ABS-CBN Sports + Action, and the programming content will feature mostly sports, with occasional sprinkling of news and action series in between.

The new network will officially debut tomorrow. And as a preview of things to come, Channel 23 is currently airing replays of sporting events that occurred in the past year, along with a delayed broadcast of the UEFA Champions League and UAAP men’s football.

ABS-CBN Sports + Action will air a wide variety of sporting events, ranging from the UAAP, Philippine Azkals, Pinoy Pride and Top Rank Boxing to the NBA, UEFA, UFC and the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup. In addition, they will also produce a 15-minute sports roundup called ‘The Score’, and a 30-minute discussion-based newscast called ‘News +’.

Carrying over from Studio 23 are action-based drama series such as ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’ and ‘NCIS’, as well as the movies from Fernando Poe, Jr.’s film library and WWE programs. The network will also dabble into reality programming with ‘The Ultimate Fighter’.

With the unveiling of ABS-CBN Sports + Action, viewers can expect a lot of sports coverage from all corners. And it should also serve notice to other competitors who will try to emulate the new style of the said network.

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drama, entertainment, movies, music, news, Philippines, Sports, television

The End of Studio 23

Left: Studio 23’s ‘Premium Network’ logo from 1996-2010. Right: Studio 23’s ‘IbaKabarkada’ logo from 2010-14.

Studio 23 has announced that it will sign off for the last time this Friday. Replacing the Kabarkada channel will be an unnamed sports channel that will begin operations the next day. But before the change becomes official, here is a look back at the network’s history.

Debuting on October 12, 1996 as a primetime-only block, Studio 23 was first utilized by ABS-CBN as its answer to GMA’s then-sister station Citynet 27. The network would make its own niche in 1998 when it started to air the Metropolitan Basketball Association, the first sports event produced by the soon-to-be ABS-CBN Sports division. By 2001, Studio 23 became a full-fledged network after MTV was dropped in favor of MYX, and ruled the UHF television landscape after the demise of Citynet 27.

It was the acquisition of the UAAP broadcast rights, however, that changed Studio 23 forever. The network began to air UAAP men’s basketball in 2000, and soon after, Studio 23 gradually veered away from the foreign canned programs in favor of their own productions. The shift of content was evident midway through the 2000s, when Studio 23 began to carry the ‘Kabarkada Mo’ slogan, emphasizing its programming focus towards the youth and young adult demographics.

In 2010, Studio 23 not only adopted a new logo, but also changed programming once more. Filipino is now used to dub some of the foreign programs. The all-English ‘News Central’ was replaced by the all-Filipino newscast ‘IbaBalita’. And in a preview of things to come, more sports events were added, such as the NBA, UEFA and Philippine Azkals soccer, WWE, UFC and Top Rank Boxing.

Which leads us to January 17, 2014. Throughout this week two different teasers currently air: one to say farewell and thanks to Studio 23, and another to welcome the upcoming all-sports channel. And based on the teasers, it is clear that the objective of ABS-CBN is to expand and develop its sports properties to a wider audience.

By Saturday, the new name of Channel 23 will be officially unveiled. But for now, we say goodbye to Studio 23 and its 17 years of ruling the UHF television landscape. Thanks for all the memories.

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Philippines, Sports, television

What Happened to Solar Sports?

In its heyday, Solar Sports aired several top-notch sports events familiar to Filipinos. Before Basketball TV and Balls came into the picture, Solar Sports was the major broadcaster of the NBA and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. It also aired the WWE, major tennis tournaments, the La Liga and Bundesliga soccer matches, the NFL, and NASCAR racing. Now, what happened?

Looking at the entire repertoire of Solar Sports, it seems that they have eschewed airing the big events in favor of sports not familiar to Filipinos. While they still provide decently good sporting events like boxing, billiards and the PGA, ATP and WTA tours, Solar Sports now airs BWF badminton, FLW fishing, and Copa Libertadores soccer matches. Locally the network became the official coveror of Philippine Super Liga volleyball. And they also cover cockfighting and Jai Alai.

Having said that, Solar Sports has become a shell of its former self. While the loss of the NBA to BTV only gave basketball-crazy fans a favor, it is unacceptable to lose the UFC to ABS-CBN Sports, La Liga and Bundesliga to BeIN Sport, and the WWE to Fox Asia. And what were the replacements? Gambling-related sports, fishing, and badminton. This is not what Solar Sports used to air.

If Solar Sports can somehow bring its past glory back, they should start by acquiring more respectably familiar sports like college football and Major League Baseball. Cockfighting and Jai Alai have no place to this channel and should be left alone for a future gambling sports channel. And finally, Solar Sports should change its logo and readopt the ‘Sports Plus’ identity of several years ago.

What used to be ‘Our Sports Channel’ is now a distant memory. Solar Sports needs a change, and it should start soon.

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entertainment, Philippines, Sports, television

Studio 23’s Filipinization

The ‘Filipinization’ of Studio 23 turned the network away from quality upscale programming to youth-based, male dominated and mass-friendly programming. (Logo courtesy of ABS-CBN).

I happened to take a brief look at CSI on Studio 23 recently, and I was shocked when they dubbed the program to Filipino. It was uncharacteristic and unusual to begin with. I remember Studio 23’s programming as being ‘different’ from other television networks, but in recent years they gradually shed its upper-class appeal in favor of a more mass-oriented approach.

Studio 23’s ‘Filipinization’ began as early as 2004, introducing its most popular and recognizable slogan ‘KaBarkada Mo’. They aired supplementary programming for the popular reality show ‘Pinoy Big Brother‘, along with the addition of original self-produced programs aimed at young audiences. By then they were airing the UAAP and NCAA games, along with classic Filipino movies on its ‘Lunch Box Office’ and ‘Barkada Nights’ blocks. But the transformation was only the beginning.

In August 2010 a slightly modified slogan was introduced. The slogan ‘IbaKabarkada’ signaled a ‘new’ era for the UHF network, gradually moving away from the upscale program that they used to air in favor of shows aiming to a mass audience. Gone were the English newscast ‘News Central’ and its morning news show ‘Breakfast’. ‘IbaBalita’ took ‘News Central”s place and used Filipino as the main tongue. Reality shows like ‘Survivor’ and ‘The Amazing Race’ were also taken off the air, as are American drama series such as ‘Smallville’, ‘Desperate Housewives’ and ’24’.  Instead they devoted more air time to early morning anime, Asianovelas and Latinovelas. More Filipino classic movies and sports events were also being aired by the network.

Perhaps the biggest move made by Studio 23 was the transfer of traditional American canned programs to the late afternoon slots in favor of Barkada Nights, Philippine Azkals soccer, IbaBalita, WWE, UFC and NBA events. By the start of 2013, all of the canned American programs were dubbed in Filipino.

So why did Studio 23 turned into a mass-oriented UHF television channel? A lot of it had to do with the growth of cable television and internet subscribers. More and more people subscribe in order to get more viewing options and catch up with all the latest news and information in a flash. Studio 23 used to provide viewers with ‘FUSE’ (fresh from the US episodes) of their favorite programs, but gradually deemphasized it following the ‘IbaKabarkada’ launch. Nevertheless they still air select canned programs from the US, albeit dubbed in Filipino in order for the masses to understand.

The network itself also saw the opportunity to acquire more sports properties in an effort to shift attention to a predominantly male audience. In 2011, Studio 23 started airing NBA games through a co-production agreement with Solar Sports. They also acquired the rights to air WWE programs, Philippine Azkals games, Top Rank Boxing and the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

In the three years since using the ‘IbaKabarkada’ slogan, Studio 23 shot its way among the top five television networks in the country. However, I think the network needs to fine-tune their programming further. They need to reduce the programming hours of Filipino movies, which on average is six hours a day, and introduce more original programming. They also had to expand their sports programming; ABS-CBN does have the Balls Network, so why not? And air less MYX and Sine-Skwela, because it’s ‘nakakasawa’.

In 1996, Studio 23 was the Premium Network, airing quality programs for the upscale family. But with all the technological advancements, it morphed into the ‘IbaKabarkada’ Network, airing programs for the youth, the males, and the masses. Today it is one of the most-watched television networks in the country, owed mostly to the ‘Filipinization’ that took nearly a decade to develop.

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