MANILA, Philippines - ESPN, the global leader in sports television programming, is formally returning to the Philippines under the TV5 network as ESPN 5.
In a press conference held at the Snaps Sports Bar in Sofitel, Pasay, Manila on October 12, TV5 President and current Gilas Pilipinas head coach Vincent "Chot" Reyes announced that ESPN 5 will replace Sports 5 starting with the PBA Finals Game 1 between the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Meralco Bolts on Friday, October 13.
He ran down the prospective schedule of the new network, saying that mornings will be given to live international sports and primetime in the evenings will be allotted to local sports like the Philippine Basketball Association and Philippine SuperLiga volleyball.
He also clarified that they will still have their local news programs on both TV5 and AksyonTV. "We aim to be a news and sports network," he said.
This is SportsCenter... Philippines
In line with the PBA, Reyes also announced that SportsCenter Philippines, a localized version of ESPN's flagship show, will launch on December 17 to coincide with tip-off of the next PBA season and conference.
"We are very honored that ESPN has entrusted us with the production of a local SportsCenter," said the TV5 CEO. "So it's going to be produced in our studios here at TV5 and it's going to have the look [and] feel of the US version of SportsCenter but it's a localized version."
Reyes was mum, however, on who the SportsCenter anchors would be. "Abangan niyo muna ang susunod na kabanata," he said. ("You'll have to wait for the next chapter.") "Right now, we are screening talents."
No live NBA games
The only major sports league ESPN 5 will not feature live games of is the NBA, which is currently in partnership with ABS-CBN Sports and Action. However, Reyes said that they'd still have post-game analyses and highlights.
"ESPN has a reporter in every dugout [with] every team in the NBA so we can show the game around the game. So the interviews post-game [and] halftime and rumors - all the rumors we have."
ESPN5.com and partnership with Smart
Aside from the channel, ESPN 5 will also have a website featuring content that isn't often shown on TV, like Major League Baseball. Reyes revealed that they've also established an exclusive partnership with Smart Communications to give more people access to the network.
"I think for some [data] plans it will be bundled for free, but you have to be a Smart subscriber to avail," Reyes said.
Expanded international sports coverage
In an attempt to solidify network identity, Reyes openly welcomed the partnership with ESPN.
"The question we're always asked is, "Sino ba kayo talaga? Who or what are you trying to be?,"" he said. "So when the ESPN partnership opportunity came along, we took it to establish our hold as a sports network. Aside from that, we gain around 3,000 more hours of content."
And indeed, Reyes got the content he wanted. Aside from airing their usual sports shows like the PBA, FIBA, UFC and PSL, ESPN 5 will now also showcase the American NCAA including March Madness for basketball, the NFL, IndyCar Racing and the X Games, to name a few.
The new sports network will also feature ESPN-exclusive programs like the 30 For 30 sports documentary series and the Big Fights library, which houses boxing's greatest bouts.
Reyes also revealed that ESPN 5 will feature the fast-growing e-sports scene and its tournaments with games like Dota and League of Legends.
"If you remember, we are the first to do that here in the country. I don't recall if it's the Manila Masters (Dota) or League of Legends but we aired that on Aksyon and TV5."
Mike Morrison, Vice President and General Manager of ESPN, was in attendance for the conference.
"ESPN's focus around the world is simple: to serve sports fans. This long-term collaboration across television and digital allows us to jointly serve millions of sports fans in the Philippines with exceptional content and coverage," said Morrison.
"We are very excited about the opportunities that lie ahead as we bring ESPN's great content and decades of experience in sports media together with a dynamic leader in Philippine sports broadcasting like TV5."
ESPN had previously been airing in the country for 19 years from 1994 to 2013 under STAR TV and Fox International on cable. Their return under TV5 also marks their debut on free-to-air television. – Rappler.com
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to read that ESPN 5 will carry PSL games, not PFL.