GMA-7 sets sights on international market

- Zinnia B. Dela Peña -
In the race for broadcast supremacy, GMA Network Inc., the country’s second largest TV network, is setting its sights on the international market this year to build a growing presence in Asia and across the globe.

Felipe Yalong, senior vice-president for the corporate services group of GMA-7, said the broadcast firm is confident it has the capacity to go international after establishing a strong foothold in the Philippine market. "We are now discussing the costs and the timing. It won’t be as big as we planned. It really depends on the opportunity that becomes available. Hopefully, we’ll have something by the end of the year," Yalong said.

Yalong said the company is targeting to penetrate the United States market, initially and thereafter, in other parts of the world where there are large concentration of Filipinos.

The network is exploring ventures such as selling local programs abroad or co-producing with foreign television players to establish GMA 7’s presence in the global arena.

An analyst from a local brokerage firm said partnerships and co-productions would be cheaper since these will not require substantial investments.

GMA-7 is also looking into marketing its soap operas in other countries, with the programs dubbed in the country’s local language.

Yalong said the broadcast firm has earmarked P20 million for investments this year. This is apart from the P204-million capital budget programmed this year for maintenance requirements.

Aiming to unseat its chief rival from the top spot, ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp., GMA would continue focusing on its programs and strengthening its provincial coverage and its international distribution signal to provide a clearer reception. Over the last two years, GMA has always been one step ahead of its competition.

At the end of 2002, GMA has narrowed the gap with its biggest rival in overall ratings to one percentage point as most of its programs have either closed in, tied, or taken the lead in their respective time slots.

GMA had also taken a bite off its competitor’s share of the advertising pie as advertisers shifted their preference to the more cost-efficient GMA programs. It noted that there has been tremendous growth in advertising sales for news and public affairs programs.

The network also expanded its production capability and produced soap operas that also pushed up its ratings.

Believing that the strength of GMA has always been in its news and public affairs programming, the network is determined to improve its infrastructure in key areas outside Metro Manila.

If the market shows signs of recovery, GMA would pursue an initial public offering to raise capital for its expansion plans, which would include creating more studios, modernizing equipment, and penetrating the international market.

Gaining the momentum in the network competition, GMA-7 reported a big turnaround in its financial performance during the first quarter this year. From a net loss of P600,000 last year, the company registered a net income of P164 million. Gross airtime revenues, on the other hand, grew by 65 percent from P722 million in the first three months of 2002 to P1.2 billion this year.

At the end of last year, GMA-7’s net income amounted to P406 million, 34 percent higher than the 2001 figure while gross airtime revenues reached P4.2 billion, 21 percent better than the previous level.

GMA-7 expects to sustain its remarkable performance as it continues to introduce more innovative programs, upgrade its facilities and expand into the international market.

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