Thursday, August 04, 2005

Where did ABS-CBN go wrong?
excerpts from Carlo Banaag's column in the Manila Bulletin

In broadcast and advertising circles, there is a general agreement that ABS-CBN did three things extremely well over the years: First, they copied other people’s ideas, but made them better. Second, they pirated the best shows and the best people. Third, they crushed everybody else.

Let’s say, for example, that a competitor had produced a variety show that was beginning to attract viewers. ABS-CBN would immediately launch a bigger variety show with glitzier sets, grander production numbers and more hosts. If the competition had a singer who was getting praise, ABS-CBN would offer to triple her talent fee. Finally, it would never be enough to just edge out the competing show in the ratings.


The tactics of ABS-CBN employed one basic weapon: Money. More money than other networks were able or willing to spend. Money for production, money for programming, money for equipment and facilities, money for executive salaries, money for talent fees, even money for game show prizes. If Christopher de Leon gave away a million on his show, Kris Aquino gave two million on hers.


Like many other companies ruled by fluctuating share prices, ABS-CBN become more conscious of short-term financial results and embarked on cost-cutting campaigns. At first, the cuts were facetious—sorry no more fresh flowers in the executive offices and reuse your plastic cups please—but later, they began to cut, not just fat, but meat and bone.

The older, more established and more expensive artistas were let go or alienated. Those who were retained had package deals that ensured that viewers would see them over and over again to the point of satiety. The number of shooting days per episode was reduced. Promo spots that would have looked great on film were done on video.

At the same time, Channel 2 strayed from its traditional three-part formula. Take the case of "Extra Challenge" which GMA-7 used to establish a beachhead in primetime. ABS-CBN never deigned to produce a clone of the show even when it had become clear that the celebrity Fear Factor format was going to be a monster hit. Nor did ABS pursue Paolo Bediones or Miriam Quiambao or Ethel Booba in the way that it went after, say, Kris Aquino and Boy Abunda a decade earlier.

Finally, ABS-CBN hesitated to pit its strongest programs against the upstart reality show. Instead, "Extra Challenge" became the programming tentpole that pulled up the ratings of "24 Oras" and "Mulawin."


Certainly, a host of other problems contributed to pulling ABS-CBN down to number 2, among them, the internal politics, favoritism and intrigues; the loss of credibility in news and current affairs; the drain on resources represented by Studio 23 and other ventures; and the lack of broadcast experience of its president.

Nevertheless, one factor stands out as the proximate cause of ABS-CBN’s collapse in primetime: The failure to aggressively protect its market share using the methods that had succeeded so spectacularly in the past.