PBA expands market reach

Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - April 1, 2017 - 12:00am




MANILA, Philippines -  Statistics culled from TV ratings are showing that the PBA is gaining a foothold in the female market because of the drawing power of the superstars in the league and the emphasis of keeping games free of violent outbursts.

PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa said recently that the officiating philosophy of taking away discretion from referees in calling fouls whenever there is contact has resulted in players adjusting to the style of relying more on skills than physicality. The introduction of the deliberate call resulting in two free throws and possession on contact made without a play for the ball has lessened the incidence of hard fouls that often lead to confrontations.

Narvasa said the game has become more wholesome with families enjoying the action. “Parents are bringing their kids to watch the games because they know we’ve taken a stand against violent behavior,” he said. “There are no more fights in the PBA. The stress is now on the talent of the players, not on how physical or strong they are. It doesn’t mean we’ve eliminated the emotion of the game. That’s something we wouldn’t like to take out. We’re just implementing what’s in the rules. The guide is the rule.”

Narvasa said since basketball is an evolving sport, the PBA must be ready to accept or initiate change. “We’re not afraid to make changes when they are for the good of the league,” he said. “We’ve made this change to clean up the game and it’s making an impact in the ratings.”

In the recent Philippine Cup, the ratings were higher in the semifinals than in the finals because of the level of competition. San Miguel Beer took only five games to dispose of Barangay Ginebra in the one-sided title series. But the two semifinal pairings went the full distance of seven games with San Miguel trimming TNT KaTropa and Ginebra outlasting the Star Hotshots. The competitive balance in the 12-team eliminations also led to a ratings spike with multiple ties in the standings. Fairness and parity are two key result areas in Narvasa’s program.

“We’ve noticed a trend where the PBA’s female audience is growing,” said TV5 Sports head Patricia Bermudez-Hizon. “The foundation of the C and D markets is strong and still expanding. But we’re also observing a rise in interest in the A and B markets. The PBA is solid on-line with fans in their 20s and early 30s the biggest followers.”

Hizon said the thrust of TV5’s projection of the PBA is to connect with the pro league’s values. “We’re focusing on the PBA players as heroes who are an inspiration to everyone’s aspiration,” she said. “When teams face off, we tell the story of Bida Kontra Bida, a play on words because in the PBA, there really is no kontra-bida. In the Philippine Cup, we developed the theme of All-Filipino, all heart and all out – that fans are backing their favorite players and teams, win or lose, in the spirit of brotherhood and togetherness.”

Narvasa said the goal is to bring back the PBA habit anchored on the hashtag #WeArePBA. “We are launching more fan engagement activities,” he said. “We want to reinforce the PBA brand as the center of Philippine basketball. We are reaching out to fans on social media. We believe the success of the PBA is rooted in fan support. We need to engage the fans and get them more involved in the league.”

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