television industry

New battle shapes up: It’s TV5 + RPN vs GMA

Isagani de Castro Jr.

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New battle shapes up: It’s TV5 + RPN vs GMA

Mediaquest Holdings Group CEO Jane Basas (2nd right) and TV5 CEO Guido Zaballero (3rd left) formalize a deal with Nine Media President Benjamin Ramos (3rd right) on RPTV at the TV5 headquarters in Mandaluyong City on February 5, 2024.

The Philippines' broadcast industry is emerging as a battle between Kapatid, with significant Kapamilya content, getting a new Kasama in RPN, versus Kapuso

MANILA, Philippines – On February 5, 2024, Manny V. Pangilinan’s Mediquest Holdings Incorporated/TV5 and the Cabangon-Chua family’s Nine Media Corporation formalized a “content distribution, sales and marketing services agreement” for the new channel RPTV.

What’s the big picture? 

posters, persons
PARTNERSHIP. Manny Pangilinan’s TV5 launches RPTV on February 1, 2024 following the closure of CNN Philippines the day prior.

The deal essentially combines the broadcasting backbones of these companies to boost the content of Mediaquest/TV5 as it tries to put up a more respectable competition to an industry dominated by GMA Network Incorporated (GMA), following the exit in 2020 of ABS-CBN Corporation from broadcasting. Mediaquest is hoping to finally turn in a profit for TV5 after Pangilinan acquired it for P5 billion from ABC Development Corporation in 2009.

It’s now essentially Kapatid, with significant Kapamilya content, getting a new Kasama versus Kapuso.

RPTV allows TV5 to concentrate on entertainment programming with a bit of news. TV5 has beefed up its flagship evening news program, Frontline Pilipinas, adding former GMA News reporter Jiggy Manicad, Jervi Li, and Mikee Reyes to ex-Kapamilyas Cheryl Cosim and Julius Babao as anchors.

Frontline Pilipinas competes with GMA’s 24 Oras and ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol, the latter shown on A2Z on free tv and the Kapamilya Channel on cable tv.

With comedian Joey de Leon under its wing, TV5 now has comedy game show Celebrity Samurai as the pre-program to Frontline Pilipinas competing with GMA-7’s Family Feud as the pre-program to 24 Oras.

New battle shapes up: It’s TV5 + RPN vs GMA

Mediaquest Holdings Incorporated president and CEO Jane Basas said last week the deal with Nine Media helps TV5’s pivot into “becoming an entertainment network, a pure entertainment network.” 

The agreement with Nine Media is for the Mediaquest Group to supply content for RPTV with “sales and marketing services to be handled by TV5,” Mediaquest told Rappler in an email. It declined to specify how the advertising revenues will be divided. 

TV5 benefits from the analog and digital terrestrial television or DTT backbone of Radio Philippines Network Incorporated (RPN), especially in light of reports that RPN is rolling out more DTT transmitters as it prepares for the shutdown of analog tv in the Philippines. 

The now-privatized RPN, which was established in 1960, is co-owned by the Cabangon-Chuas’ Nine Media, Far East Managers Incorporated, and several other private stockholders, but the Philippine government still has a minority stake, RPN’s website says. 

“This agreement brings together TV5 and MediaQuest’s vast library of programs and Nine Media’s broadcast network access and nationwide reach,” TV5 president and CEO Guido Zaballero said in a press statement on February 6.

“Our collaboration with Nine Media allows us to reach more Filipinos and deliver our commitment to provide the entertainment, sports, news, and public service content that they love,” added Zaballero.

A former broadcast company officer told Rappler a DTT transmitter used to cost around P100 million, so Mediaquest/TV5’s tie-up with Nine Media/Radio Philippines Network Incorporated (RPN) makes business sense. They don’t have to spend so much on putting up more transmitters.

RPTV uses both TV5’s 18.2 DTT and RPN’s 19.1 DTT. In particular, RPN has a DTT transmitter in Metro Manila which is a high definition (HD) feed.

More DTT transmitters means wider reach and better television reception for viewers using digital boxes.

Digital broadcast technology also allows having multiple channels on one frequency. Recall that ABS-CBN, via its TVPlus set-top box, delivered clearer signal for Channel 2, and allowed it to have sub-channels like ABS-CBN Sports, Jeepney TV, Cinemo, Yey, Knowledge Channel that appeal to niche markets. People just had to buy a TVPlus digibox.

With its partnership with RPN, Mediaquest/TV5 is able to create a sub-channel focused on basketball, with a bit of entertainment and news and public service programs. Whether there will be more sub-channels serving niche markets remains to be seen.

There’s still a lot of money to be made from broadcasting.

Industry leader GMA Network earned P2.4 billion in the first three quarters of 2023, down 52% from P5.1 billion in the same period in 2022, an election year. 

GMA’s revenues from advertisements, mainly from its free tv channels, reached P12.6 billion in the first three quarters of 2023. Its Good TV or GTV free tv channel also contributed to GMA’s top line, with many ads placed in the weekday movie offering G! Flicks, which TV5 is now battling with Cine Cinco movies.

As a reinvigorated RPN-backed TV5 goes head-to-head with GMA-7, how will RPTV fare among the many digital channels? Will it be able to make money for Pangilinan’s Mediaquest and his RPN partners?

Basketball addicts

“RPTV is for those that looking for sports, news and public service, action and comedy movies and series. We address the content preferences of a different audience,” Mediaquest told Rappler.

From CNN PH’s whole-day news programming to six hours of Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) games, it’s clear the biggest gainers from the RPTV channel are the league’s fans who want to watch the games on free tv. PBA live games are uninterrupted, and PBA’s 3×3 league games, currently being held in Ayala Malls’ Market! Market!, are also aired.

New battle shapes up: It’s TV5 + RPN vs GMA

“We saw the opportunity where we could build a new platform, build a new home for the PBA, wherein we’ll be able to feature more of the PBA games, especially all the live games,” Zaballero told TV5 last week. “Beneficial talaga ‘yan sa (It’s really beneficial to the) audience and it’s the audience that is our number one priority. 

The PBA window on RPTV is from 4 pm to 10 pm on weekdays, and 3:30 pm to 10 pm on weekends. RPTV will also air Gilas Pilipinas’ games and Premier Volleyball League matches.

All RPTV needs now to make money are the other corporations with teams in the league, especially San Miguel Corporation (SMC) with three PBA teams, to support it with advertisements. Companies who sell products directed at a predominantly male audience in the lower income brackets should also take a closer look at this new channel. 

SMC chief Ramon Ang used to support CNN Philippines (CNN PH) with advertisements and sponsored programs. It remains to be seen how he will be backing up RPTV, especially now that he and Pangilinan are teaming up in other ventures

Boost for comedy

Viewers on free tv who like entertainment in Filipino, comedy in particular, are also gainers with RPTV. 

Mediaquest’s comedy shows Tropa Mo Ko Unli and Balita One Nan are shown from 11 am to 12 noon prior to TVJ Productions’ E.A.T…Bulaga, from noon to 2:30 pm. 

“Some [of these] are fresh shows and some are re-runs,” Mediaquest told Rappler in an email. 

“Due to the breadth of content coming from the various platforms of Mediaquest, we aim to establish a program grid that is relevant to the audience while optimizing our content investment. We continue to assess our program line-up to see how we can improve and best entertain our audience,” it added.

New battle shapes up: It’s TV5 + RPN vs GMA

Balita One Nan, a play on the Filipino word “tawanan” (laughter), stars comedians Alex Calleja as “Seph ‘Patola’ Balimbing,” Jervi Li as “Kaladkaren Dadilat,” and Wally Bayola as “Migs ‘Reaksyon Man Mamaril.” The show is similar to the now-defunct “news and comedy affairs” show of ABS-CBN’s Studio 23, Wazzup Wazzup, starring then-young entertainers Vhong Navarro and Toni Gonzaga reporting news live. 

Those who like comedy can now watch Tropa Mo Ko Unli and Balita One Nan on free tv. They are also shown on Cignal’s BuKo channel on Cignal cable.  

The biggest beneficiary from the Mediquest/TV5 tie-up with Nine Media/RPN is EAT Bulaga!, starring Tito Sotto, Vic Sotto, Joey de Leon (TVJ) and the rest of the Dabarkads. 

Under the deal, EAT Bulaga! can be now be seen on the analog and digital channels of TV5 and RPN 9. There will be more people in the middle- and lower-income brackets who will get to watch TVJ Productions’ EAT Bulaga! on free tv. Recall that there were complaints from many Eat Bulaga! fans – after TVJ left TAPE Incorporated – that they would not be able to watch the show on free tv due to TV5’s weaker signals vis-a-vis GMA’s.

EAT Bulaga! competes with ABS-CBN’s noon show, It’s Showtime, shown on GMA’s GTV, and TAPE’s now-renamed Tahanang Pinakamasaya on GMA’s main free tv channel, GMA-7. 

TAPE stops using Eat Bulaga! as Tito, Vic, Joey start using it for noon show

TAPE stops using Eat Bulaga! as Tito, Vic, Joey start using it for noon show

TV5 expects that this deal with Nine Media will translate to higher ratings for EAT Bulaga! and hopefully more advertising revenues. 

Mediaquest now has a rich library of content that it can use to improve RPTV’s programming. Aside from TV5, Pangilinan’s other media assets include Cignal, Philippine Star, BusinessWorld, Radyo5, One Sports, Sari-Sari Channel, Epik Studios, Unitel Straightshooters, and National Broadcasting Corporation.

From English to Filipino news

Similarly, for those who used to watch CNN PH on free tv, there’s been a shift from predominantly English news to RPTV’s Filipino news and public affairs programs: (as of February 1) Ted Failon and DJ Chacha (6 am to 10 am), Gud Morning Kapatid (10 am to 11 am), Raffy Tulfo’s Wanted In Action (2:30 pm to 4 pm), and Frontline Tonight (11:15 pm).

On free tv, these shows compete with GMA’s Dobol B TV (5:30 am to 9 am), Regional TV News (10 am to 10:30 am), Balitanghali (10:30 am to 11:30 am), and late-night news show Saksi (11:30 pm to midnight).

RPTV will also be airing the ex-Kapamilya and now Kapatid Gus Abelgas’ Forensics on weekends.

Veterans in the broadcast industry must be scratching their heads why it took Nine Media eight years to figure out there’s no market on free tv for an all-day predominantly English news channel. Those in the upper-income brackets get their news mainly from cable tv and now the web, not from analog or digiboxes. 

Asked whether RPTV will be putting up original news shows with former CNN Philippines talents, Mediaquest told Rappler “there are no plans at the moment.”

“We continue to review our programming to see what will best serve the audience in the late night timeslot,” it said.

A plus for Raffy Tulfo

A coincidental beneficiary in this Mediquest/TV5 deal with Nine Media/RPN is Senator Raffy Tulfo. His show, Wanted sa Radyo on RPTV, now gets the added boost from RPN’s DTT backbone in addition to TV5’s DTT transmitters. 

Running as an independent candidate, Tulfo’s radio, television, and social media presence catapulted him to 3rd place in the 2022 senatorial elections behind topnotcher Robinhood Padilla and Loren Legarda. Padilla was carried by PDP-Laban, while Legarda ran under the Nationalist People’s Coalition.  

This could be important in the run up to the 2028 elections, given that Tulfo is considered by political analysts as a strong presidential candidate. 

Take note that House Speaker Martin Romualdez set up a joint venture with ABS-CBN in 2023 when it put up DWPM TeleRadyo Serbisyo, using the 630 AM frequency of ABS-CBN, filling up a hole in his nationwide network of mostly FM radio stations. FM radio is an important source of political information, especially during elections, given the many news, public affairs, and commentary programs on radio.

Former Senate president Manny Villar likewise hasn’t given up his All TV network after taking over Channel 2.

All these are useful in the run up to the 2028 elections, in what some media analysts say will be competitively fought on both old and new media, with special emphasis on the latter, especially Tiktok, similar to what’s happening in Indonesia. – Rappler.com  

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Isagani de Castro Jr.

Before he joined Rappler as senior desk editor, Isagani de Castro Jr. was longest-serving editor in chief of ABS-CBN News online. He had reported for the investigative magazine Newsbreak, Asahi Shimbun Manila, and Business Day. He has written chapters for books on politics, international relations, and civil society.