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At ABS-CBN, just like Cardo of ‘Ang Probinsyano,’ we remain undaunted

By Laurenti Dyogi Published Jul 27, 2022 5:04 am

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The year 2020 was the most difficult time for us at ABS-CBN. We experienced double jeopardy — the outbreak of COVID-19, and the powers-that-be shut down our network. All this was very painful, but just like Cardo of “Ang Probinsyano,” we remain undaunted.

When the House of Representatives didn’t renew the ABS-CBN franchise, I went to the newsroom and saw people crying. We asked ourselves, “What do we do now?”

Read what Ging Reyes wrote about ABS-CBN Corporation in InBetween: Our spirit can never be broken

We had a Plan B, but the pandemic stopped us from pursuing it because there were no theaters. We couldn’t make movies, and there were no live events here and abroad. And then we couldn’t air for free, so where were we supposed to go?

Employees and supporters of ABS-CBN gathered to light candles in front of the network's headquarters in Quezon City to call for press freedom and protest against the shutdown of the media company in May 2020.

We used to be very confident that the free broadcast business would remain robust, but that view was seriously challenged by the pandemic. The lockdowns forced people to become more digital savvy, with internet users going for new platforms that deliver short-form content. People became accustomed to binge-watching. Nobody wanted to wait for the next episode of their favorite show that would air only the next day. Luckily, ABS-CBN was in that space and time when we could keep up with all these changes.

We’ve had to go all-out digital since it is the most accepted platform, and everyone is present online. We realized we had to capitalize on our footprint. We are fortunate to have reached 40 million subscribers on YouTube alone. The livestreaming platform Kumu also partnered with us for “Pinoy Big Brother” and with our other artists. We learned how to work with media services such as Netflix and Viu. If we were still 100% in broadcast, we would not have had the time and energy to get into other platforms.

ABS-CBN and Kumu teamed up in one of the country's biggest celebrity streaming partnerships

So, with necessity came innovation. We managed to repurpose our assets, create short-form content, and update ourselves with the rapid changes in social media.

The way the public views media is changing, so the industry also needs to change how it creates and distributes content.

With the goal of reaching a larger audience, we began collaborating with other broadcasters such as A2Z, TV5, and GMA-7.

We also had to tighten our belts. Financially, our income was not the same as before. There was no choice but to cut down on manpower since we were producing fewer shows. We had to let go of people to survive. There were also people who chose to leave at a critical time, but we couldn’t take things personally. As a result, the organization became smaller. But there has been a good side: New faces came in — we have become younger and fresher.

What has not changed, though, is our mandate to serve the public.

The way the public views media is changing, so the industry also needs to change how it creates and distributes content.

ABS-CBN Entertainment's YouTube channel subscribers jumped to 40 million in the last two years.

The essence of ABS-CBN is being a content company. So, with or without the franchise, we will continue to create good content. We will produce new programs that inform, educate, and entertain, and we will try to reach as many audiences as possible. Since new opportunities have come our way with the radical changes that were imposed on us, we want to invite more people to watch us and the fresh work we’re churning out.

Our work process has changed, and we are further aligning our system with international standards. ABS-CBN will continue to strictly implement the 12-working-hour production system (based on the Joint Memorandum Circular of the Department of Labor and Employment and the Film Development Council of the Philippines), a practice that was first carried out in the entertainment industry during the pandemic. We now complete work in advance, finishing an episode 48 to 72 hours before airing. Production bubbles may be more expensive, but they are also proving to be more productive, where everyone gets adequate rest, and the environment is safer.

Pinoy Big Brother finale

ABS-CBN will continue to undergo transformation, but our essence will remain the same. The company is still made up of very good people; some of the country’s best are still with us, and we will continue to hone and groom new talents. Over the years, we have established ourselves a loyal fan base, and we are thankful that there are Kapamilyas who will always be with us. The determination and passion of the people behind our shows are also key to why we’ve been able to continue.

Personally, I feel excited about the next phase of ABS-CBN — when it has transformed itself and, with all our innovations, we are back to being the industry leader. And for us to regain that ground, we will be undeterred in serving the public. We will continue to create better content, and we will be in a bigger arena. Our work will be seen in more available platforms, and our audiences will be bigger than ever. We will not be stopped. (As told to Lester Babiera)