by Ronnie Nathanielsz
We were pleasantly surprised and pleased at the television ratings of the first match in the Suzuki Cup semifinals between the Philippines and Indonesia staged in the 80,000-seat Bung Karno Stadium, which was built in 1960 and is the 9th biggest football stadium in the world.
ABS-CBN’s top honcho Gabby Lopez had earlier instructed vice president for sports Peter Musngi to somehow get the Philippine games for telecast on Studio 23 after realizing the potential of the sport and the newfound public interest in it.
The interest was stirred, no doubt, by the quality with which we played the game and the roster of good-looking young men who donned the country’s jersey in the tournament.
If the results of the telecast of Game 1 is any criteria, then Lopez certainly made the right decision. But that would clearly never be enough. It cannot be a one-shot deal.
ABS-CBN, or any other TV network for that matter, needs to follow through on what has been an initial breakthrough.
The sport needs a well thought-out and sustained program to build on the gains achieved in the Suzuki Cup, while at the same time shunning the internal struggles and debilitating politics of Philippine sport.
Indeed, a powerful TV network’s involvement and its persuasive influence in football is likely to help remove politics from the sport and allow it to grow because it is indeed in the service of the Filipino.
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The ratings should also open the eyes of the members of the PBA board to the harsh reality that the pro cage league is not the attractive proposition it used to be—although teams like Ginebra, B-Meg Derby Ace (Purefoods to many) and San Miguel Beer continue to draw fans to the venue.
Overall, however, the PBA board must realize that they don’t have a product that networks and advertisers will chase, like they used to at a time when Vintage Enterprises’ Carlos “Bobong” Velez lifted the PBA telecast to unequalled heights over a long period of time behind a total dedication to producing a top-class coverage.
The board also needs to appreciate the TV medium as it is today and not be swayed by unsubstantiated if not unintelligent claims that a UHF Channel like Studio 23 cannot match the reach or the audiences of a free TV channel like RPN 9.
That misconception, and a little additional money in terms of a franchise fee, saw the PBA board—which had first indicated it would go with ABS-CBN—turn around and award the coverage rights to Solar Sports.
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The ratings of the football match last Thursday were, according to Musngi, “amazing.”
Imagine. The RP-Indonesia match on Studio 23 outrated the PBA games the previous day.
The PBA first game rated 1.0 percent and Game 2, 1.7 percent in Mindanao while football rated 1.8 percent.
In the Visayas, the PBA rated 1.4 percent and 1.7 percent while the football match rated 4.4 percent.
In Mega Manila the PBA rated 1.4 percent and 2.6 percent while football rated 3.0 percent.
Finally, in the suburbs the PBA rated 1.6 percent and 3.5 percent in the triple-overtime game between Meralco and Rain or Shine while football basically on the main game timeslot rated 4.0 percent.
Figures tell the story.
It may not be the whole picture but it certainly indicates that football has an exciting future. And if PBA basketball is to revive the glory days, the board itself and the teams must imbibe the dynamism of league commissioner Chito Salud, whose grasp of the nuances and commitment to excellence will surely help pave the way for a turnaround.
Time is of the essence.