Sans free TV franchise, ABS-CBN expects to regain profitability soon | Inquirer Business

Sans free TV franchise, ABS-CBN expects to regain profitability soon

ABS-CBN Corp., which is poised to make profits again soon after trimming its net losses, is having mixed thoughts about scrambling for a new free TV franchise amid the booming of its digital platforms in the past years.

Carlo Katigbak, chief executive officer of the Lopez-led media group, said during a stockholders’ meeting on Thursday they were still studying if securing a free TV franchise under the Marcos administration would be a priority.

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“We understand at the present there has been a franchise bill filed. However, at this time, we have yet to decide whether a new franchise is aligned with our strategic plans,” he said.

Refiling bill

The Makabayan bloc refiled earlier this month a bill seeking to provide ABS-CBN a 25-year franchise. This was after Congressional allies of former President Rodrigo Duterte, a known critic of ABS-CBN, foiled the media firm’s bid to renew its franchise two years ago, forcing the shutdown of its free TV broadcasting.

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The Lopez-led company has since turned to digital platforms to stay afloat, launching the online streaming channel “Kapamilya Online Live” in August 2020.

It also signed a block-time leasing deal with Manuel Pangilinan-led TV-5 and Zoe Broadcasting Network Inc. owned by evangelist Eddie Villanueva to air ABS-CBN’s popular shows, leading to better TV ratings following the rejection of its franchise renewal. It also has a partnership with GMA Network to air ABS-CBN content.

“From a low of 1.1 percent after our shutdown, we have achieved a 4.1-percent rating, with prime-time [rating] growing from 2.1 percent to 9.6 percent,” he added.

Apart from this, it was also generating revenues from the licensing and distribution of the media company’s films and programs in different countries, including those in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

“These improvements and the continuing upward trajectory of financial performance are indicators that a return to profitability is possible in the near term,” Katigbak said.

New business model

In the first quarter, ABS-CBN reported that its net loss had narrowed by nearly 30 percent to P1.38 billion, thanks to the influx of advertising revenues during the elections.

The ABS-CBN chief said they had been reducing their debts, which declined to P21.5 billion last year from P26 billion in 2020. The media group currently has P18.4 billion worth of obligations which it aims to “reduce further to P14 billion or less.”

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Moving forward, Katigbak said they were “determined to build a future for ABS that does not solely rely on broadcast.”

“Instead, we are doubling down on excellent storytelling which has a wider audience on any network from any platform,” he added. ABS-CBN content is also available via Netflix, Viu and iWant TFC.

The Lopez-led network, along with Kroma Entertainment and Globe Telecom’s 917Ventures, also launched in May the country’s first real-time and multiscreen interactive channel Pinoy Interactive Entertainment in a bid to boost digital content creation.

Recently, it was also reported that ABS-CBN was in talks with TV5 for a potential 50-50 venture, an upgrade from their current block-time partnership.

“As of today, our partnership with them is taken in the form of content licensing or content sharing,” Katigbak said.

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