ABS-CBN Sports turns to digital amid broadcast shutdown

Beatrice Go

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ABS-CBN Sports turns to digital amid broadcast shutdown
As ABS-CBN goes off-air, S+A shifts its efforts to other platforms to continue showing fans their favorite game replays and highlights

MANILA, Philippines – The ABS-CBN shutdown has affected all its free television and radio channels, including its Sports + Action (S+A) channel, which broadcasts major sports leagues in the Philippines such as the UAAP, NCAA, Premier Volleyball League (PVL) and the MPBL. 

Even if the coronavirus pandemic brought world sports to a standstill, S+A has already geared up to continue serving Filipinos in its digital and over-the-top (OTT) platforms. 

“The effect of last night’s events – the effect on broadcast – is truly historic and relevant, but the foresight of our company leaders allows us to continue having that voice at this time,” said ABS-CBN head of digital sports Mico Halili. 

“For sports, we continue to use that voice.” 

Can we still watch sports on ABS-CBN? Yes! Sports fans can continue reliving their favorite moments as S+A shifts its main broadcast of game replays and highlights on its sports cable channel LIGA, mobile streaming service on iWanTV! and YouTube. 

In the iWanTV app, only the ABS-CBN live channel won’t be available, but users can still continue to access their favorite variety shows, movies and iWant original dramas. 





S+A will also be showing its own short documentaries, The Score and its segment shows such as SRSLY?, hosted by National University Bulldogs player Shaun Ildefonso, and Kalye Confessions by PetroGazz Angel Cherry Nunag. 

It’s good that more and more are now getting accustomed to digital platforms – globally and here included. Because of the effect of COVID-19, it has brought us to a greater appreciation of new technologies,” said head of ABS-CBN Integrated Sports Dino Laurena. 

Even if most of the company’s sports content comes from broadcast, Halili promised that the ABS-CBN sports digital team will continue to create content that will be uploaded on their social media channels – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 

“When the lockdown happened, the sports digital team didn’t stop. This is going to be no different,” said Halili. 

“Adapt, innovate, because you want to continuously serve. It’s not going to be easy but it has been made clear to us.” 

What will happen to the employees? Since the cancelation of sporting events in the Philippines, talents like all-around UAAP commentator and The Score co-anchor Anton Roxas said that they were well-taken care of by the company. 

“ABS-CBN was still paying us as if we’re covering the UAAP because we signed contracts before the UAAP volleyball tournament started and those contracts are guaranteed,” explained Roxas, who has been working for the corporation for over 10 years. 

As the UAAP second-semester action went into a complete stop after just a week of games, Roxas shifted to writing and producing TV features of athletes who have been helping the battle against coronavirus. (READ: How Filipino athletes are pitching in to fight the coronavirus pandemic)

“But with the shutdown of ABS-CBN, all of that vanished into thin air. I’m just as shocked as everybody,” added Roxas. 

“The network was taking care of us despite the coronavirus situation, but now that this happened, I don’t know if that’s also going to be cut-off because everything is still so fresh.” 

For Laurena, he is confident that the company will stick to its promise of keeping everyone on board, especially with the necessary shift to digital production. 

“We’re keeping all our staff on board. We’re still very busy, we do a lot of Zoom productions,” said Laurena.

“We’re learning new ways of production. It’s a good opportunity to get into the feel of a new normal. We might be seeing what we’re doing now – the evolution and adaptation – and it’s going to be maintained after the lockdown.” 

ABS-CBN has also been a training ground for future sportscasters, providing college students with a chance to become courtside reporters and inviting athletes to get a big break behind the mic as game analysts. 

What’s the future of the leagues? ABS-CBN has long been the broadcasting partner of the UAAP, and Laurena said that their clients have remained supportive of them. 

Even with the expected hiatus of sports due to the Philippine Sports Commission’s decision to cancel all competitions scheduled this year, the leagues plan to wait for further announcements and guidelines from the government when the general community quarantine has been enforced. 

“Nothing’s definitive,” said Laurena. “It’s a suppression of a basic right. We believe as an institution, it’s not right to shut down ABS-CBN. Putting it aside, our clients have been supportive. The COVID-19 issue, though, has more weight on sports.”

The UAAP also requires its games to be aired on free television, which will pose a problem on the network until the new franchise license has been renewed. (READ: Bill granting ABS-CBN new 25-year franchise filed in House) – Rappler.com 


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Beatrice Go

More commonly known as Bee, Beatrice Go is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Philippine sports governance, national teams, football, and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.