PBA seals deal in China
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 22, 2019 - 12:00am

A top-level delegation made up of POC president Rep. Bambol Tolentino, PBA officials, Pilipinas Global Network Ltd. (PGNL) president Ernesto (Bong) Sta. Maria and former Rep. Rey Umali leaves for Changsha today to formally launch a partnership with the Hunan World Research Internet Co. Ltd. (HWRICL) in airing PBA games live on TV in Mainland China.

HWRICL CEO Mo Yanfei invited the delegation to a ceremony at the Juzizhou International Conference Center in Changsha, where the 2015 FIBA Asia Cup was held, tomorrow. The ceremony was described by Mo as “elaborate” and will commemorate the first live television broadcast of the PBA games in China. Mo said the ceremony will be attended by Chinese government and sports dignitaries. He added that “this exciting event can be the catalyst for future joint sporting activities between our two neighboring countries.”

It was last June 26 when PGNL and HWRICL signed the exclusive broadcast rights of the PBA live games in Mainland China. Mo said “one of the objectives of this accord is to promote Philippine professional basketball games for the enjoyment and viewing appreciation of Chinese sports fans.”

Sta. Maria said the ceremony tomorrow will include a transmission from Changsha hosted by TV5’s Amanda Fernandez to air at halftime of the PBA second game between San Miguel Beer and NorthPort at the Cuneta Astrodome. HWRICL will own the PBA broadcast rights in Mainland China and arrange the telecast throughout the country.

PGNL was established eight years ago and distributes content in the US, Canada, Australia, Middle East and several other countries. Sta. Maria, who is in his fourth year as CEO, said the PBA is PGNL’s No. 1 property and its most in-demand content throughout the world. PGNL is the international media arm of TV5.

The PBA officials who will attend the ceremony in Changsha are chairman Ricky Vargas, Barangay Ginebra governor Alfrancis Chua, commissioner Willie Marcial and former chairman Patrick Gregorio. Former Rep. Umali is the lead contact of the Chinese group and the delegation’s “ambassador at large.”

Sta. Maria said two weeks ago, PGNL arranged a test run of live PBA games to HWRICL and the transmission was a success. Marcial said the PBA breakthrough in China is significant because it establishes a viewership for the local pro league in the world’s largest market.

The Philippines and China have been long-time basketball powers in Asia, sharing a common passion for the game. They both bid for the hosting rights of the 2019 FIBA World Cup with China winning on a 14-7 vote of the FIBA Central Board. Although they were on opposite sides, the campaign brought both countries closer together. After the final presentations of the bid in Tokyo, Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) president and NBA legend Yao Ming congratulated the SBP for its excellent concept and production, even sitting down with Filipino officials just to talk basketball. 

It was a testament of this friendship that Yao himself turned over the FIBA flag to SBP chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan at the end of the recent FIBA World Cup to signify the transfer of the hosting rights for 2023. The Philippines will be the lead host in a syndicate with Indonesia and Japan to stage the next World Cup. 

The PBA’s entry into the Chinese market has nothing to do with the NBA’s recent situation. PGNL and HWRICL forged their agreement last June, collaborating on a landmark deal to bring the PBA to Mainland China because of a mutual love for basketball. In China, there could also be interest in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup which ends just before the CBA season begins as imports may be scouted for Chinese teams.

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