THE failure of ABS-CBN to secure a franchise will be felt in sports in a few months as the biggest draws in the TV sports scene—the collegiate leagues, volleyball leagues and the fledgling Manny Pacquiao Basketball League—have all been left without a TV partner. Of the four, the MBPL was the first to announce that it will be looking for a new TV partner, and I think the founder being an ally of the administration had something to do with that.
The rest haven't made any announcements yet, and in this case, the uncertainty because of the Covid-19 pandemic had helped a bit. Imagine if they were weeks away from the season opener and they'd find out suddenly they had no TV partners?
There's no precedent to this, five widely followed leagues—two collegiate, two in volleyball and the MPBL—suddenly finding themselves without a TV partner. And if you're on the other side of the negotiating table, the odds do favor you, right? I mean, if you know one desperately needs a network, you know you have the upper hand.
And make no mistake, TV is what made the collegiate leagues grow big.
ABS had such a big hold of the market that I don't think the other network even bothered. The only competition between the two that was sports related was the telecast of the Manny Pacquiao fights. But in the collegiate and volleyball scenes, it was all ABS-CBN.
Who among the leagues will be the first to jump ship? I don't know.
But perhaps, they can look to the MPBL model as guide. Nope, not the one where the league announced it would be searching for a TV partner, but the MPBL model in its first season.
Before hooking up with the Kapamilya Network, the MPBL grew its audience on Facebook, streaming its jampacked games on the platform and earning a wide following. There were just 10 teams then, but it was such a big hit that in the second season, the teams grew to more than 20 and the league got itself a partner in ABS-CBN.
Can the collegiate leagues follow such model? Use an online platform exclusively and forgo with a TV partner? The Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) did to a certain level of success and it used students for the production team.
It’s not impossible. Just needs a leap of the imagination.
And if they are successful, maybe the other collegiate leagues in the country can follow suit?