On screen time: Surveying sports broadcasting options

Being able to broadcast the UAAP is a very lucrative prospect which many of ABS-CBN’s competititors are surely hoping to secure.

As a media giant that stood for decades delivering relevant content to Filipinos, the impact of ABS-CBN’s rejected franchise renewal cannot be quantified only by the reported losses of the corporation in its financial statements—its significance stretches far more than that and appears to be a big blow to sports in the Philippines.

Among the pressing issues related to the network’s closure is the cutback of over 10,000 employees, which included courtside reporters, commentators, and technical teams behind live sports coverages. The termination also marked the conclusion of the broadcast for sporting events under the company, placing the coverages for the coming UAAP and NCAA seasons to uncertainty.

With the pandemic still distressing the world, the state of sports and the integral personnel behind them are left with troubles aggravated by the shutdown of ABS-CBN.

Decades of service

Dating back from 1998, ABS-CBN’s affiliation with sports began when it became the main broadcaster for a professional league in the country called the Metropolitan Basketball Association. Although the league only lasted for about four years, the media company has ensured to continue the operation of its sports division after its acquisition of broadcast rights for the UAAP and NCAA basketball tournaments in the early 2000s.

Gradually through the years, it expanded its scoops from basketball to a variety of sports like volleyball, baseball, and football, among others, and even the matches of women’s teams. In fact, the network aired the first-ever televised women’s basketball game in the country last year which is an introduction to the rise of the sport to popularity for it to race in viewership side-by-side with its male counterpart in the future. The network has also been consistent in providing airtime to women’s baseball and football games. This initiative did not only give exposure to the other athletes and their respective sports but also widened the vision of the viewers about sports in general, which goes beyond gender stereotyping.

Moreover, when it came to simultaneous matches in the collegiates leagues in the previous seasons, the network was able to broadcast multiple games at a time through live telecasts and live streaming on various online portals.

Apart from airing live games that captured moments of setbacks and glories of championship squads, ABS-CBN also provided sports news, features, and a variety of sport-related shows, where numerous UAAP and NCAA athletes and teams have appeared.

For the past two decades, ABS-CBN has greatly contributed in popularizing sports in the country, and its influence was witnessed by the eyes of sports enthusiasts and athletes alike.

Lights out

ABS-CBN had covered major sporting events both inside and outside the country. With the media company’s closure, it leaves the network’s patrons in disarray wondering where they might find the sports content they have relished watching in the past years.

The media giant’s closure will mean a regime change in the sporting world, as these sports events are now up for grabs for other networks such as GMA and TV5. This transfer would just leave the fans missing the voices of familiar sports broadcasters like Mico Halili and Anton Roxas. Now, the wait is on for the new kids on sports broadcasting.

With GMA Network and TV5 having content open to them, having less than 3,000 employees combined might affect the viewing experience of the audience, but this may also mean creating job opportunities to provide better service to the Filipino sports fan. 

Sports enthusiasts will anticipate whether the new network fills the shoes of ABS-CBN or even surpasses them. But these enthusiasts remain in the waiting room to see if the network will now shed some light on sports with smaller fan bases like martial arts and swimming and put women’s sports into higher regard as well.

The show goes on

On the collegiate level, round the week broadcasts of sporting giants, UAAP and NCAA have long been attributed to ABS-CBN, and as the sun sets on the franchise, for now, the aforementioned leagues have had to find a new broadcaster to stay afloat.

With high marketability, viewership, and rabid fan bases, it should not have been a challenge for the two leagues to find a new home to showcase collegiate talent. Indeed, just this month, the UAAP announced that it has struck a five-year deal with Cignal TV to air their matches on One Sports starting in Season 83. And with the rapid investments that the network’s sister company, TV5, has made in sports, a lot is to be expected from this new agreement.

On the other hand, while the NCAA has yet to finalize its new broadcast partnerships, its choices are down to GMA and TV5, who have already made their proposals to the league, according to a report by the Manila Bulletin.

While the UAAP and NCAA may very well have their broadcast problems solved, ABS-CBN does not share the same fortune. It might be high time for Cignal TV and for whichever network will claim broadcasting rights to the NCAA to consider hiring displaced sports media personnel.

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