9TV rebrands as CNN Philippines

Alora Uy Guerrero
Editor. You may tweet her at @aloraguerrero.
Yahoo Southeast Asia Newsroom
CNN arrives in the Philippines.

It started out as a joke. Nine Media Corporation chairman Antonio Cabangon-Chua and his friends bantered about bringing CNN to the country. Then they realized it could be done.

That eventually led to Tuesday’s official announcement of the rebranding of the former ambassador to Laos’ 9TV, formerly Solar News, to CNN Philippines—the result of 1 year and 4 months of negotiation with CNN International (CNNI).

No, the latter is not investing money in Nine Media Corporation; after all, foreigners can’t invest in media properties in the country. It is the Filipino company that’s paying CNNI every month. How much, Cabangon-Chua didn’t want to disclose.

“This is not all about money in the business sense anymore,” he said. “I’m already 80. I want to leave a legacy.”

 So what’s going to change?

Kayen Zialcita, the local company’s senior vice president for brand development and marketing, summed it up: “The look and feel of the channel, the way we gather news, the way we report the news… those are all going to change.”

She added, “Everything will have to change because we have to live up to the standard of CNN.”

Thus, Filipino journalists will receive extensive training from CNN here and abroad.

That CNN agreed to the five-year partnership means that the two organizations’ vision, mission, and values are aligned, CNNI senior vice president Ellana Lee confirmed.

They only have a few partnerships, and CNN Philippines is the newest addition to their small family that includes those in Indonesia, Chile, India, Turkey, and Japan.

“We have to look at the type of company that we partner up with,” Lee explained. “They [Nine Media] bring a lot of the same values that we look for in terms of covering the news and where they want to take the news specifically in the Philippines.”

In exchange, CNN will have the opportunity to reach in to the Philippine market, as their local partner is on free TV besides being available 24 hours on cable and pay television —unlike CNN’s other partnerships.

A win-win situation, according to representatives of the two organizations.

CNN Philippines will operate from studio facilities in Metro Manila and will replace 9TV on the RPN network nationwide. It will deliver content from CNN’s affiliates, including the one in the United States. Feature programming and newscasts will be distinct.

“It’s a combination,” Zialcita said. “Otherwise, there will be no difference from the cable TV channel.”

 “But again, this is not a one-way business,” CNNI VP for content sales and partnerships Greg Beitchman stated. “You’ll see stories made globally for the local market, but we will also broadcast the best news in the Philippines that can be offered internationally.”

This development should provide competition in an industry dominated by two TV networks: ABS-CBN, which has the ANC 24-hour news channel, and GMA-7, which has GMA News TV, a channel that broadcasts the whole day as well, albeit on free TV.

“We have 34 years of strong knowhow, so we will shake up the [Philippine] landscape,” Beitchman said.

He added, “It will be quite challenging but fun. Competition is good; it will make us all better, and hopefully, it will also improve Filipino journalism.”

Expect CNN Philippines to be available first quarter of 2015 on free-to-air TV in Manila RPN-TV9, Cebu RPN-TV9, Davao RPN-TV9, Zamboanga RPN-TV5, Baguio RPN-TV12, and Bacolod RPN-TV8.

It will likewise be on cable TV through Sky Channel 14 (Metro Manila), Sky Cable Channel 6 (Cebu, Davao, Bacolod, Iloilo, and Baguio), Destiny Cable Channel 14, Cablelink Channel 14, and Cignal Channel 10.