Where did ABC go wrong?
STARBYTES - Butch Francisco () - January 25, 2007 - 12:00am
From the time it reopened in 1992 (after it was shut down by martial law 20 years earlier), ABC 5 generally lacked advertising support and fared unimpressively in the ratings game – a disastrous combination for any television station.

In lieu of commercials, the network endlessly aired during station breaks in-house plugs promoting its programs. While that was a good reminder for the viewers to catch its other shows, it turned off most audiences because these were already getting repetitious – even annoying at some point.

I for one tried to watch Channel 5 shows because the network aired some really good ones in the 15 years it had been operating. But it had very long station breaks that aired over and over again the same plugs done by its merchandising department – and so I’d switch channels. A lot of times I don’t come back – especially when a show airing in another network turns out to be more interesting.

ABC 5 would have had a captive audience perhaps: viewers impatient to go over endless advertisements selling various consumer products. But it blew its chance.

Another reason why it failed to develop a loyal following among viewers was its decision to be the carrying network of the PBA. With the PBA games wreaking havoc on the station’s regular programming, how do you expect viewers to stick to Channel 5 shows? Too bad for ABC 5, the popularity of PBA has long waned and it is causing irreparable damage to the network.

This already happened to the old BBC-2 in 1982 – when it began airing the PBA games. Prior to that, BBC-2 was No. 5 in the ratings game (there were only five networks then) – even behind the government station MBS-4.

When BBC-2 entered into a deal with PBA and aired its games from the Araneta Coliseum, the station moved a rung higher and became No. 4 – a disappointing performance considering the fact that PBA was at the peak of its popularity then. Even if basketball is the most popular sport in the Philippines, you have to remember that not everyone in this country is a basketball fan. It is still the wives (and children) who have control over the remote.

When PBA eventually moved out of BBC-2, the network was back to being No. 5 in the ratings sheets. Soon after, it became the backwater in the TV landscape – practically unsalvageable. The only time viewers started watching Channel 2 again was when the Lopez family returned to the business of television after EDSA I and revived ABS-CBN.

PBA may be an earner for ABC 5 at the moment, but station management should watch out for the repercussions once the games are moved to another station. Maybe PBA should just stay and Channel 5 can be transformed into an-all sports network and start airing other sports events. But then, what else is profitable aside from basketball. Boxing? I doubt if Manny Pacquiao would allow himself to get punched day in and day out just to keep this network going.

But really, going all sports is an option for ABC 5. The market may not be all that big, but it would be profitable.

Actually, the best way for ABC 5 to develop its audience is to start having its stable of talents – teen stars to lure the young crowd because that is the biggest.

When Charo Santos was hired by ABS-CBN to take care of production in 1988, I think one of her first steps was to ask the late Lino Brocka to develop young talents for the network. That attempt may not have been very successful because no one in that batch really made a name, except maybe for Amy Godinez, who tried doing the newscast for a while. But ABS-CBN always had young people there: Mark Anthony Fernandez, Jomari Yllana, Eric Fructuoso and Abby Viduya (before she became Priscilla Almeda) prior to the series of Star Circle searches that produced the likes of Victor Neri, Mylene Dizon and the late Rico Yan.

Even GMA 7 had a long list of young stars before launching the StarStruck series and apparently it worked for the network.

Sadly, ABC 5 did not have this kind of vision. At the moment, teen viewers only have newscaster John Susi to flip over. Even Ariel and Maverick aren’t heartbreakers either.

What Channel 5 built instead was a fine reportorial news team – which was a good thing because local television needs a lot of that. In the now-defunct Sentro, the field reporters delivered comprehensive news stories and on top of that, the newscast had credible anchors: Ali Sotto and, yes, John Susi, who has a clear speaking voice perfect for the news. Why ABC 5 canceled that, I have no idea. Supposedly, it wasn’t rating. But how did they expect it to develop a loyal following when its viewers had to engage in a guessing game with regard to its time slot during PBA season? You just didn’t know when the news was coming in when there were games. But we’re done with that. Network officials may just have to accept the fact that the PBA was their undoing.

Running a TV station is a complicated business. You need to know what the viewers want – actually what the masses want (the very same people who choose our elected officials, sigh) – but at the same time trying to maintain quality. The key element here is balance. In the last 15 years, that was what Channel 5 oh so utterly lacked.

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