GMA back in sports

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - October 26, 2020 - 12:00am

After roughly three decades, GMA Network is jumping back into sports broadcasting. The country’s largest broadcast network after ABS-CBN has been actively bidding for large sports properties in the wake of its prime competitor’s being closed down. Their first priority is to help collegiate sports, and back that up with its formidable resources.

Until the late 1980’s to early 1990’s, GMA was one of the pioneers of local coverage of the NBA. Its “Game of the Week” was somewhat of a gamble, as the league was just a few years removed from it worst years in terms of broadcasting, even in the US. But the move caught the resurgence that came with the ascendancy of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. The interest in acquiring, packaging and selling sports properties waned. The network focused on news and entertainment, which were easier to generate revenue from. Its on-camera talents for both had been poached by ABS-CBN when the latter reopened in 1986.

This is not to say that the network had totally abandoned sports. Unlike its major competitors, GMA has consistently had sports news on its radio network via dzBB, its main channel and the younger GMA News TV. The latter has also carried block-timers and one-off sports events, as well.

Unknown to many, GMA Network has made serious bids on both the UAAP and NCAA for upcoming seasons. Management has stated its goal to uplift collegiate sports and dedicate substantial resources and airtime. The NCAA has scheduled a final presentation for bidders middle of this week. GMA is up against TV5 once again. The question is who will give the country’s first collegiate league its proper place of prominence. The NCAA has come a long way since the early 1990’s, when it didn’t even have any television partner at all. With its prior partner ABS-CBN, it was relegated to days when the UAAP was not on, but was also adversely affected by the constant replays of both leagues, which confused audiences. This was one reason why the league briefly tried airing on another network, then returned to ABS-CBN, where it received better marketing.

For the NCAA, GMA has to convince the league of its sincere intent and commitment. If GMA is truly bent on transferring its potent reach and merchandising muscle to sports with the NCAA as a flagship property, that would be a big deal. For a network of its size to back up a sports league with no other properties sharing resources is a big deal. Many of us still recall the massive publicity generated by the build-up to the Metropolitan Basketball Association, when ABS-CBN fully devoted its resources to the new partnership.

Strangely, during the bidding process for the UAAP, the UAAP asked GMA to repeatedly revise its proposal. Until Thursday afternoon the other week, GMA’s bidding team was in discussions with the UAAP decision-makers. Mere minutes later, it was announced that TV5 had acquired the rights to the league. Needless to say, this left a bad taste in the mouth for GMA.

Whatever happens this week, GMA’s decision to throw its hat back into sports will spur more competition, and everyone wins. This potential renaissance is a most welcome development.

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