ABS-CBN steps up digital initiatives amid threats to broadcast business

Media giant ABS-CBN Corp. is accelerating spending across a range of digital initiatives to secure a future still threatened by fast-changing industry dynamics and national politics.

New developments such as the relaunch of the iWant app—its response to internet TV giant Netflix—and a move to create movies and shows for non-Filipino viewers abroad were some of the products highlighted by company president and CEO Carlo Katigbak during ABS-CBN’s annual meeting on Thursday.


More than reaching new markets, such business lines are outside the scope of ABS-CBN’s broadcasting franchise, whose renewal President Duterte vowed to block when it expires on March 30, 2020.

“It is clearly an uncertain time in ABS-CBN,” Katigbak told shareholders. “We are faced with threats from many directions: changing consumer habits, disruptive technologies, political headwinds and new competition.”


He said the company’s application before Congress remained pending. ABS-CBN will refile its papers under the new Congress to be established after the polls next month.

Katigbak said ABS-CBN, which still relied on TV advertising for about half of its P40 billion in revenue last year, expected a “full recovery” in 2019, partly driven by political ad spending.

The company’s net income last year dropped by almost 40 percent to P1.91 billion as TV advertising slowed.

Rolando Valdueza, ABS-CBN group chief financial officer, said the marching orders were for the company to increase spending in digital.

“The capex [capital spending] starting this year and the next five years will mostly be for digital and broadband,” he said. In the same respect, ABS-CBN chief financial officer Aldrin Cerrado said the goal was to increase digital’s contributions, which accounted for 13 percent of revenue last year.

Company officials pointed to the steady growth of iWant, which had about two million active users, and the adaptation of its popular TV shows in Turkey and Indonesia as early signs of success.

ABS-CBN, which also owns Skycable and the KidZania theme park in Bonifacio Global City, has embarked on a series of acquisitions to support its retail segment. It invested in subsidiary The Chosen Bun Inc. to expand its food and beverage business apart from ventures sealed with cosmetics giant Ever Biliena and IBayad Online Ventures for an e-wallet service.


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TAGS: ABS-CBN Corp., CEO Carlo Katigbak, iWant app, media
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