Active players in disrupted Philippine media

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Filipino businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan has made a mark in the Philippine business community as a chair in numerous household names in telecommunications, electricity, and infrastructure, to name a few. Nonetheless, his leadership also reaches the country’s media landscape through the conglomerate MediaQuest Holdings, Inc. (MediaQuest), home to some of the biggest names in television, print, and digital media.

From acquiring several media companies since its establishment in the 1990s by PLDT through its Beneficial Trust Fund, MediaQuest is seeing its investments come to fruition as the brands it carries are being widely recognized by the general public and also particular demographics.

After a decade of becoming the notable ‘third player’ in what used to be a ‘two-network town,’ TV5 Network Inc. (TV5) has become a more competitive player in the industry, actively stepping up in response to significant disruptions in Philippine media — particularly the shutdown of broadcasting giant ABS-CBN on terrestrial TV — that took place in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier in 2020, TV5 partnered with its sister company, pay TV provider Cignal TV, Inc. (Cignal), with the latter serving as the channel’s main content provider to handle the network’s programming. Following this partnership, the network embarked on collaborations with many production companies such as APT Entertainment, Brightlight Productions, Viva Entertainment, The IdeaFirst, and Cornerstone.

TV5 and Cignal also partnered with ABS-CBN Entertainment to carry the content from the latter, which include several dramas like the long-running FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano, as well as the Sunday noontime variety show ASAP Natin ‘To and, soon, the popular noontime program It’s Showtime.

This boost in TV5’s programming has opened doors for new viewers, which eventually lead to nationwide viewership growth. Nielsen ratings indicated that as of July last year TV5 has registered an 89% growth in total viewership and is now the country’s second most highly rated channel. The network’s weekday primetime block grew from a 5.3 audience share in January 2021 to 12.9 as of end-June 2021, while its weekend primetime improved from a 4.2 audience share to 6.9.

Having expanded its services from direct-to-home satellite to content production, Cignal has likewise seen growth, with Mr. Pangilinan noting in a televised interview that Cignal is on track to hit P1 billion profit in 2021, driven by a “magnificent” performance in the first half of that year, having earned P510 million, up 608.3% from P72 million in the same period in 2020.

“Their EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization) was close to P2 billion,” Mr. Pangilinan was quoted as saying in a BusinessWorld report. “I think that puts Cignal in a position to help TV5 [grow] without much help from PLDT.”

As a content producer, Cignal is behind channels such as English-language news channel One News, which binds the forces of media outfits The Philippine STAR, BusinessWorld, and News5; Filipino-language channel One PH, bringing together the forces of Pilipino Star Ngayon, The Freeman, radio station Radyo 5 92.3 News FM (owned by MediaQuest asset Nation Broadcasting Corp.), and also News5; sports channels One Sports and One Sports+; and entertainment channels Sari-Sari Channel (in partnership with Viva Entertainment) and BuKo (in partnership with APT Entertainment).

Aside from carrying well-known local basketball and volleyball games, Cignal also served as the official broadcaster for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which pushed through last year; 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics last February; and Hanoi 2021 Southeast Asian Games, which pushed through last May.

The company also partnered with the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) to carry live collegiate games, as well as additional programming and classic games via the UAAP Varsity Channel — the first of its kind in the country.

MediaQuest, through its unit Hastings Holdings, Inc., is also a big player in the print and digital media through the PhilSTAR Media Group (PMG), which holds some of the country’s leading newspapers such as broadsheet The Philippine Star, the country’s first business daily BusinessWorld, Filipino tabloids Pilipino Star Ngayon and Pang-Masa, Cebu-based English-language paper The Freeman, and Cebuano-language tabloid Banat News.

In the digital space, five of PMG’s six titles have a solid online presence through Philstar.com, owned and operated by Philstar Global Corp. Beyond being an online edition of The STAR, Philstar.com has grown into one of the country’s biggest digital news outlets with its own editorial team and content. Philstar Global Corp. also operates Interaksyon.com, which has evolved from TV5’s news website to a platform publishing features and analyses on social issues and current events from the perspective of social media.

The Philippine STAR’s digital presence has been further enhanced with PhilSTAR L!fe, which expands the paper’s lifestyle content from the physical pages to an online platform brimming with “everything you love, want, need and more,” as the website states, and built on “a connection based on trust and discovery.”

More recently, the PMG intends to make a bigger impact that transcends its regular content and pages as it launched a year-long advocacy titled “Nakakalocal: Love Local, Grow Global.”

Bringing the spotlight on the country’s small and medium enterprises and proudly-made Filipino products, this initiative will set online features, fun bazaars, enriching talks, e-convention, and business pitching and mentoring events in the coming months.

A highlight of this initiative is the search for “STAR36 SMES” which the media group will help in promoting their businesses. Registered businesses with products that present a unique value, have a strong and patriotic vision, support sustainability, and are ethical and socially responsible, are sought for the “STAR36 SMES.” — Adrian Paul B. Conoza