So long to Sky Cable

BLITZ REVIEW - Juaniyo Y. Arcellana - The Philippine Star

Let’s say when first moved in the apartment complex, read condominium, the cornered cable TV provider was the then fledgling Destiny, whose lineup was not as illustrious as the larger companies Sky and Home, but nevertheless had its fair share of rare almost novel channels to seemingly make up for the shortfall, such as Sports plus (The NBA all day, because you asked for it we’re giving it to you) and the Japanese import Wowow, with its unusual combination of fringe movies, stellar sports events and animé.

But even before that big move to Mandaluyong 23 years ago, Sky Cable was our first-ever cable TV in the old apartment digs in Malate, where upon subscribing and telling our landlady about it, she remarked, “Ang yaman niyo!” or you’re so rich, it was such a novelty at the time almost like the telephone which Eastern Telecom had provided us off Vito Cruz after more than a decade phoneless but with pager, so cute and almost like a luxury you could kiss it.

Didn’t disconnect from Sky though despite the move, and thought of bringing it to Boni but for Destiny, or was it destiny that had us transfer the line to Maginhawa St. UP Village, at the old folks ancestral home, where they could watch Turner movie classics, Marimar dancing by the beach, the “X-files” as well as assorted game shows, not to mention the gaggle of news programs including CNN, on which they watched the planes crashing into the World Trade Center towers in New York.

Even the kids who were toddlers then had a great kick out of the cartoon cluster, such as Cartoon Network (which the youngest pronounced Neckwork), Animax, and regular programs of “One Piece” and “Dragon Ball,” the golden age of animé is always in the elementary years.

The NBA, with its much-coveted basketball programing, did musical chairs with the cable providers, until it came out with a dedicated channel of League Pass with separate subscription, with only token game offerings on long weekends to further whet the appetite of fanatics. It was on Sky though that we got our first glimpse of the English Premier League, where players were hyper like energizer bunnies a step or two quicker than those in other leagues.

Then, too, there were definitive finds on Sky, not least the channel Filmbox Arthouse where you could have your fill of European classics and avant-garde cinema, from the silent movies of Charlie Chaplin to horror pioneer “Nosferatu,” as well the cult classic “Metropolis” and Ozu’s trilogy that forever changed the face of filmmaking, “Late Spring,” “Early Summer” and “Tokyo Story,” all featuring an actress whose role as Noriko was muse of postwar Japan. Also practically the whole Tarkovsky catalogue.

Things were never the same when during the pandemic, congressmen without much gray matter decided not to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN, parent company of Sky Cable, and gradually the company began to feel the crunch forcing to lay off thousands of workers as if times weren’t hard enough.

During lockdowns and limited forays into the outside world, cable TV was the link for real time news and information, so much that if it went on the blink for some technical reason and no hotline to call, it was ABS-CBN and Sky point man Kane Choa who received our frantic texts verging on panic, and The STAR columnist always delivered to have cable restored and make quarantine less miserable, less out of touch.

News is out that Sky Cable will sign off by month’s end, making it the second major broadcast carrier and communications conglomerate to write 30 in as many months, after CNN Philippines last January. PLDT’s purchase of the cable provider has finally been approved by the concerned agencies, so Sky pay TV will transition to Cignal while still retaining its broadband service.

While channels may be comparable at more or less the same price, there’s the issue of bundled offerings (Internet plus cable) or standalone satellite dish, the latter frowned upon by condominium administration as the palangganas might be eyesores sticking out of apartments in 2024, not to mention safety hazards during storms. Also, what if the unit already has another Internet provider, say Converge, can’t Cignal harness this using existing Sky Cable lines and not resort to the dish?

So many questions, too little time to say goodbye to BeinSports and Mezzo classical station, the Aquarium channel, though Teleradyo Serbisyo and ANC can still be accessed through broadband to augment One News and OnePh that come with the buy in. So long also to Kyla the bot, whose quick stock responses were filler before connecting to an actual customer rep, but there’s no goodbyes for bots, only wishes that transition from Sky to Cignal would be as seamless as that of Destiny to Sky many years ago. Or maybe Converge Vision TV has a better, more feasible alternative.

(Erratum from last number on Brocka national anarchist: It was William Lorenzo not Alan Paule who was with the director the night he died.)

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