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A Year into A Franchise-less ABS-CBN: It changes the Entire Local Scene

The earlier direct effects are far more debilitating–the layoffs of workers, following the closure of some of ABS-CBN’s units. 

ABS-CBN’s practically unceremonious departure from the main competition, sent a shockwave of misfortune to many businesses, but it has also allowed a few to thrive inordinately in its wake.

The closure of ABS-CBN’s various businesses caused a negative domino effect in the economy, even before its July 2020 franchise denial. Now a year into its operation without a franchise, the Network has somehow collected fragments of its shattered form, but it continues to suffer the inadvertent consequences of its departure from free television.

The same can be said for other businesses which continue to endure the challenges, both of the pandemic, and the lack of another major player in the local entertainment scene. 

The earlier direct effects are far more debilitating–the layoffs of workers, following the closure of some of ABS-CBN’s units. 

The Network laid off around 5,000 workers since it began its massive lay-off last year. The same brunt, however, is also speculated to have fallen on various businesses which had ABS-CBN as a major partner for years 

As the Kapamilya could no longer produce the same volume of work as before, due to lack of resources, and the effects of the pandemic, more and more small-time third-party contractors also felt the network’s shutdown’s unfavorable impacts. This effect is believed not to last too long, as other players are expected to absorb ABS-CBN’s share. 

But the pandemic continues to prove to be a far bigger hurdle.

With the exit of ABS-CBN from the main competition, GMA Network inadvertently secured its place as the top player in the local television industry. 

In July 2020, following ABS-CBN’s franchise denial, the Kapuso media giant reportedly captured 63% of the local television viewership shares, or nearly double its pre-ABS-CBN shutdown figures. GMA’s extravagant surge in viewership, inevitably prompted advertisers to shift spending towards the Kapuso Network, thereby filling up the Network’s various revenue streams. 

As expected, GMA Network’s revenue also shoots up, setting historic records for the company, in terms of its financial performance. 

Earlier in April, the Network announced a PhP6 Billion profit for 2020, posting a 128% improvement year-on-year. This surge is attributed to the company’s lower production expenses due to the pandemic, but GMA bosses, themselves, acknowledged the wonders ABS-CBN’s departure has made for what the Kapuso Network claims as ‘a year like no other’.

There have also been improvements in other networks’ viewership share. 

TV5, for instance, posted a higher figure, registering 9.5%, in July 2020. This share is reported to have further improved, in the first quarter of 2021, as ABS-CBN Entertainment programs begin to appear on TV5.

The local sports industry also saw a screeching halt during the pandemic, and after the dissolution of ABS-CBN’s Sports Division, prompting several major sports leagues to seek partnership with other networks. 

The National Collegiate Athletic Association recently announced its agreement with GMA Network, which now serves as its new broadcast partner. The Philippine Basketball Association strengthened its ties with Manny V. Pangilinan-owned TV5, which also now owns the local airing rights of the NBA games.

Following the National Telecommunication Commission’s order against ABS-CBN’s Sky Direct and TV Plus, GMA Network conveniently found the potent opportunity to expand its digitalization campaign. The Network launched GMA Affordabox in June 2020, going head-to-head with ABS-CBN’s similar service, TV Plus. 

The digibox allows viewers to access digital television frequencies and watch available digital terrestrial channels. The Network reported that sales for the said service was at nearly 1 million units, after six months of release, amounting to about PhP500 million. 

For mobile users, GMA Network s started the sale of GMA Now TV Dongle, as GMA Affordabox’s mobile counterpart.

Sky Direct’s exit from the market also allowed similar services to take a bigger chunk of the market. Both Global Satellite (GSAT) and Cignal TV have reportedly experienced a boost in sales, following the significant consumer migration from SkyDirect. As for Cignal’s case, the company’s direct-to-home services saw a “tsunami” of new subscribers, according to PLDT Chair and CEO, Manny V. Pangilinan.

ABS-CBN, today, continues its free television broadcast, through its leasing deals with TV5 and A2Z Channel 11. Both channels have enjoyed a significant uptick in their viewership shares, and helped, ABS-CBN-produced programs, to return to the rating chart. 

ABS-CBN, however, continues its pursuit to expand digitally.

Following its shutdown, the company has since tapped various online and digital platforms for its content delivery. Consumer migration between free television and streaming platforms has been progressively leaning towards the latter, as demand for new content was more aggressively met by emerging online and digital platforms. 

As digital consumption spikes, major broadcast entities like ABS-CBN and GMA Network, strengthen their campaigns to turn the ongoing consumer migration, to their advantage. The favorable impact has been more evident with the now franchise-less ABS-CBN, as subscriptions across its social media channels, skyrocketed.

The company’s aggressive efforts to use streaming services as one of its major content delivery platforms, has also inspired other major broadcast companies, to do the same. ABS-CBN has recently tied-up with international video-streaming services, WeTV and iFlix, for their scripted entertainment contents. The partnership would allow VIP users to see advanced episodes of some Kapamilya series, including the long-running, FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano, and ensemble drama, Huwag Kang Mangamba.

One year into ABS-CBN’s franchise-free operation much has changed, in the entire local entertainment scene. Through its block time agreements with TV5 and A2Z Channel 11, ABS-CBN has reclaimed a portion of the TV viewership’s lion share, it previously enjoyed. It also expanded its online and digital revenue-generating platforms.

That being said, ABS-CBN’s journey towards reclaiming everything what it lost. And as its bid to secure another legislative franchise may likely remain dead—at least, in the next few years—its expansion efforts through its streaming platforms and block time deals, will most likely carry its dream to remain in the service of the Filipino.

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