In the age of ‘AlDub,’ television proves it is still king
THE DIGITAL age has arrived in Philippine television, and broadcast companies like ABS-CBN Corp., GMA Network Inc. and TV5 are rapidly upgrading—while learning along the way—to capitalize on this next area of opportunity.
The latest development in this shift came from an unlikely source: The almost four-decade-old Eat Bulaga spawning an innovative segment in July—no other than the kalyeserye (street series) segment that features the now familiar “AlDub” couple.
The segment is a modern take of the fairy tale romance between instant celebrities Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza aka Yaya Dub. Millions of viewers have moved forward the story line between the two—from first interacting via split-screen to finally dating, albeit seated on both ends of a long table.
Eat Bulaga’s ratings have already doubled as of Sept. 1, 2015 as against its “pre-AlDub” days, based on data from Nielsen Philippines.
It also turned out many of the show’s viewers are young and tech-savvy, helping AlDub hit a record 25.6 million tweets on Twitter last Sept. 26, again displaying the power of social media as a distribution platform.
The phenomenon keeps on spreading. Fans and even politicians seeking to bolster their own statures have been recorded across the Internet doing the so-called “pabebe wave,” a tribute to the gesture made popular by the AlDub couple.
“The Internet as a distribution platform should be given more attention, particularly to engage a younger audience,” said Dingdong Caharian, senior vice president for GMA New Media Inc., a subsidiary of GMA where Eat Bulaga airs.
The media landscape is changing globally, and it’s the same story in the Philippines.
Smartphones are getting more high-tech while prices are falling, opening up access to broader parts of the population hungry for new ways to talk to each other and consume entertainment like games and movies.
“While a play on TV gives you the reach—it’s still the most pervasive appliance—one cannot afford not to include Internet [in the strategy], particularly mobile,” Caharian said.
Shows like “AlDub” and primetime hits of ABS-CBN like “Pangako Sa ‘Yo” and “On The Wings of Love” prove that when it comes to entertainment here, TV is still king and its dominion remains the most lucrative.
Media advertising, after all, remains big business in the Philippines.
TV corners a big chunk of pie
In 2014, spending on the three most popular media formats expanded by another 14 percent to P372 billion, based on data from Kantar Media. Of that amount, television cornered 78 percent, radio got 18 percent, print got 3 percent while the remaining 1 percent went to other platforms.
“You have to remember, TV is still the cheapest form of entertainment,” Rolando Valdueza, ABS-CBN group chief financial officer, said in an interview.
“TV still [has] the highest penetration with 90 percent of homes having a television set,” Gabriel Buluran, general manager at Kantar Media Research, said in a separate interview.
“Imagine a TV set is on for six to eight hours per day—it’s the easiest way to reach viewers,” he added.
Buluran said that while they have yet to specifically track data on digital ad spending, he noted this industry would gain traction sooner, possibly within the next few years, compared to new distribution channels in the past.
He noted, for example, that Pay-TV services like cable were not tracked until 10 to 15 years after it was launched.
This shift has been acknowledged by broadcast companies, which have been investing billions of pesos to boost their digital networks.
ABS-CBN in February this year launched its TVplus box, a device that is connected to a television set and allows viewers to avail of the digital TV service. Valdueza said they have sold about 600,000 of these boxes so far and that the company would likely sell 1 million by the end of 2015.
Separately, TV5, a unit of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., has been actively seeking ways to boost its presence outside traditional TV.
Last June, unit Digital5 said it would ramp up the launch of online-only, short-format television shows targeting a younger audience. These include comedy skit “Kwentong Barbero,” sitcom “Tanods” and alternative news program “Kontrabando,” according to Jose Feliciano, the company’s digital marketing and strategic planning head.
Shows geared toward the local market remain on high demand.
Broadcast companies know this well enough, thus investing heavily to develop and protect content. This is also why telecommunications companies, which already have the distribution infrastructure, are seeking ways to partner with TV companies.
Globe Telecom and ABS-CBN have taken this forward via ABS-CBNmobile.
“It’s still local content that will drive these devices,” ABS-CBN’s Valdueza said. “That’s also why we are investing in distribution.”
Right now, broadcast companies are not feeling the pinch from what is being branded as the next big thing, which is internet TV, Valdueza and Caharian said.
Two popular regional services have emerged: Iflix, which is partly owned by PLDT, and HOOQ, which partnered with Globe Telecom.
Both also draw local content from either ABS-CBN and GMA.
This means that rather than threaten Filipino broadcast companies right now with their vast libraries of Hollywood movies and international TV shows, they may still need to find their niche in the finicky Filipino market, which sometimes suffers from spotty Internet services.
“When home TV came in, they said it would kill radio. That was 60 years ago and while smaller, radio is still there,” Buluran said. “I think rather than compete, these Internet TV services can still complement TV.”
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