MANILA, Philippines – It started as a joke but ended as a strategic partnership.
This was how former ambassador Antonio Cabangon-Chua, chairman of Nine Media Corporation, described how negotiations for the deal with the Turner Broadcasting System Asia Pacific, owner of CNN, began.
Talks started early June 2013, Cabangon-Chua said, and it took months of "courting each other" before both groups reached a deal.
The initial brand licensing agreement will run for an initial period of 5 years, said 9TV senior vice president for news Jing Magsaysay.
Under the deal, 9TV agreed to pay CNN a certain amount monthly in exchange for access to its programs and expertise. Cabangon-Chua declined to disclose the amount. He also declined to disclose any amount allocated for 9TV's expansion.
"We are paying them a certain fee. There is nothing free in this life. But that is confidential. It involves business," Cabangon-Chua said.
CNN Philippines was formally launched on Tuesday, October 14, in Solaire Resorts and Casinos in Manila, just days after it was reported that 9TV had acquired the CNN brand.
It was only in August when Solar News reformatted into 9TV after Cabangon-Chua bought Wilson Tieng's 34% stake in Solar News.
9TV targets to rebrand as CNN Philippines in the first quarter of 2015. The next months will be used to prepare for the shift.
Magsaysay said present employees will remain with the company. As part of the deal, some reporters will be sent to the US to be trained by CNN staff while some CNN consultants will also come to the Philippines to extend their expertise.
CNN Philippines will be localized and separate from CNN International. The network will air on free TV as CNN International continues to be available on cable TV.
CNN Philippines will be a combination of locally produced news and content sourced from CNN US, which usually does not air on CNN International.
"We will define over the coming months what the content will be but it will be predominantly news with current affairs and Filipino-based lifestyle news," Magsaysay said.
Nine Media president Benjamin Ramos said CNN Philippines will air on RPN-9's existing channels in the country, including Manila RPN-TV9, Cebu RPN-TV9, Davao RPN-TV9, Zamboanga RPN-TV5, Baguio RPN-TV12, and Bacolod RPN-TV8.
It will also be available on cable TV via Sky Cable in Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao, Bacolod, Iloilo, and Baguio as well as Destiny Cable, Cablelink, and Cignal.
Photo by Rappler
CNN joint ventures
Asked who approached whom for the partnership, Cabangon-Chua said it was a mutual move from both parties.
"It started just like a joke. Nag-usap sila (CNN) nung presidente namin si Reggie (Galura). Parang biru-biruan lang. Nag-materialize kasi maganda ang intensiyones ng isa't isa." Cabangon-Chua said.
(It started just like a joke. CNN and our president talked. They were just joking. It materialized because each side had good intentions.)
The joint venture is the latest in CNN's partnerships with other countries. Just in February, Turner Broadcasting System Asia Pacific entered into a deal with PT Trans Media Corpora to launch CNN Indonesia, described as a "localized" version of CNN. There are similar CNN partnerships and joint ventures in Chile, India, Japan and Turkey.
Asked why CNN chose to partner with 9TV, CNN International vice president for content, sales, and partnerships Greg Beitchman said:
"It's a great moment for CNN to come in countries and when we do that, we look around to see who's in the market. We look around at the environment and see who will allow free and transparent journalism and we talk to all kinds of partners. With Nine Media, we really felt a sort of synergy with their values. We spent a long time talking to them about where they felt journalism was going and where they thought their business was going and we felt very comfortable," he said.
The entry of CNN Philippines is seen to boost the standing of 9TV, which has struggled for ratings in a television landscape dominated by two networks – ABS-CBN channel 2 and GMA channel 7.
But Cabangon-Chua said CNN Philippines does not intend to compete with other networks.
"We'll do it on our own. We'll set our own example. It's public service," he said, declining to give a timeline on when he expects to recover his investment in the business.
What about CNN? CNN International Asia Pacific senior vice president and managing editor Ellana Lee said the prospects are bright.
"I'm pretty confident that when you bring in the brand of CNN that's been around for 34 years and has a strong know-how about the standards and practices – it will shake up the landscape and I think it will be a very interesting prospect and it will be a lot of fun," she said. – Rappler.com