Fewer viewers, ad options: How ABS-CBN shutdown alters PH media landscape

Camille Elemia

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With the decline of TV viewership and disruption of brand campaign plans, the next all-out battle is likely in digital

The shutdown of the Philippines’ largest broadcasting network ABS-CBN has shocked viewers and advertisers alike, altering the Philippine television media landscape.

In an archipelago where TV remains king, the impact was immediately felt after flagship newscast TV Patrol (TVP), the last show to air, bid goodbye on May 5. (READ: ABS-CBN goes off-air after NTC order)

Data requested by Rappler from media research company Kantar Media Philippines showed that many (36%) of TVP’s viewers – likely network loyalists – just turned their televisions off, while 30% switched to GMA’s 24 Oras.

Total TV viewership nationwide – both in number of viewers and length of viewing time – also declined.

In the first week, TV viewing decreased by 24%, with the dip continuing for the period May 6 to June 5.

Audiences also watched almost an hour less of TV in the first week of ABS-CBN’s absence.

Big winner: GMA

GMA emerged as the biggest winner, with many viewers watching the network, followed by GMA News TV and CineMo!, an ABS-CBN-owned pay TV channel.

GMA’s 32% audience share during the lockdown spiked to 55% after a month of its rival’s closure. GMA News TV also doubled its audience share – from 2% during the enhanced community quarantine to 4%.

Kapamilya Channel: The rising star?

On June 14, ABS-CBN launched the Kapamilya Channel, another pay TV channel that carries some of the network’s high-rated shows such as FPJ’s Ang ProbinsyanoIt’s ShowtimeASAP, and The Voice Teens, among others.

On its first week, the channel already ranked 4th among the most watched channels, trailing GMA, CineMo!, and TV5.

Kantar data showed that viewers watched more pay TV since the launch and that the new channel fared well in rural areas.

Data also showed that Kapamilya Channel and Channel 2 have very similar audience profiles. Unsurprisingly, though, the former has lower reach than Channel 2 which is on free TV.

Access to Channel 2 is easier for most Filipinos, especially those who could not afford to pay for cable or devices.

Twin blows to the ad industry

With the top network suddenly gone, the multi-billion-peso advertising industry looked for other ways to reach campaign targets.

Advertisers transferred their spots to other channels where viewers went. Again, GMA was the biggest gainer, as ad spending increased in their channel.

A week before ABS-CBN’s closure, GMA had 3,627 advertisements. Post-shutdown, this increased by a whopping 44% to 5,212 ads.

GMA also gained an additional 3 minutes worth of ads per hour. Ads are usually 15 to 30 seconds long.

Kantar pointed out that brands had different results with these changes. Some brands met or exceeded their reach and ratings target, while others did not. 

Venus Navalta, CEO of media agency IPG Mediabrands Philippines, told Rappler that advertisers were significantly affected by the pandemic and then, shortly after,  by the shutdown.

“Advertisers had to again adjust campaign plans (after factoring in the COVID-19 impact) to take into account the audience migration from television, shifting media mix, as well as TV channel mix,” Navalta said in an e-mail to Rappler.

Citing data from MAGNA, Mediabrands’ media and market intelligence company, Navalta said the pandemic has greatly reduced advertising spending in the Philippines, at about -17%, for 2020.

This, she added, will decline further, following ABS-CBN’s shutdown.

Rappler talked to a media planner who shared similar sentiments. A media planner is someone who determines where, when, and how often ads will be run to reach targets. Unauthorized to speak, the planner requested anonymity.

“To be honest, we haven’t even reached the point of settling and sticking to that one strategy to address these concerns [on the pandemic]. Then here goes the ABS-CBN shutdown being added to the list of our key considerations,” the planner told Rappler.

“As a media planner, ABS-CBN not being part of any of my campaigns just doesn’t seem real. In our world, massive reach and awareness are equated to TV and TV without ABSCBN is not real TV. Or Philippine TV for this matter.”

Shift to online, digital

“The media landscape is forever changed, which has forced us to pivot as twice,” the media planner said.

With these two major blows, advertisers, ready or not, are diving head first on the digital wave. From being brands’  secondary medium, digital is now seen as a major driving force.

According to media research firm Nielsen, while global ad spending will decline by 4.9% in 2020, worldwide digital ad spending will grow by 2.4%.

In the country, digital ad spend, according to the Statista database, will reach $638 million (around P31 billion) in 2020, with search advertising emerging as the biggest segment.

“The TV advertising industry will likewise have to adapt to the recent changes in audience behavior and channel landscape by looking at possible alternative digital platforms which seem to be the likely substitute for TV as an advertising medium,” said Jay Bautista, Kantar managing director.

This is easier said than done, though, as Facebook and Google dominate the area, Navalta said.

Navalta said the next few months will be “very interesting,” as the new landscape will bring in new winners and losers.

“COVID-19 and the ABS-CBN shutdown have accelerated digital adoption, with a decade worth of usage rate happening in a few months. The internet by its very nature is stateless and difficult to control,” Navalta said.

For now, the industry, and much of the country, has no choice but to wait and see. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a former multimedia reporter for Rappler. She covered media and disinformation, the Senate, the Office of the President, and politics.