Back after four years.
Back in the 90s and into 2000s, Filipinos were able to see ESPN content through a dedicated ESPN channel targeted towards Asia. It was a joint venture between ESPN, Inc. and STAR TV. Eventually, as 2013 enters, STAR TV’s then-parent company, News Corporation (now 21st Century Fox), decided to buy ESPN’s stake in the ESPN Asia venture and rebranded into Fox Sports.
Limited ESPN programming was seen on various channels since ESPN Asia became Fox Sports, like on Outdoor Channel or Solar Sports.
And earlier today, TV5 Network, Inc. and ESPN, Inc. eventually announced a long-term collaboration agreement to introduce a new, but somewhat familiar, sports brand that will serve Filipino sports fans.
Sports5 will be rebranded as ESPN5 starting tomorrow’s PBA coverage. As for sports lineup, according to Sports5, ESPN5 will air TV5’s current sports portfolio, which includes the PBA and FIBA competitions, Gilas basketball, UFC and the PSL, along with thousands of hours of sports coverage and ESPN content, which include more than 70 NFL games per season. This include Monday Night, Sunday Night and Thursday Night Football games, as well as the entire NFL Playoffs, the Pro Bowl, and the Super Bowl. Other ESPN programming includes live studio programming (e.g. Around The Horn and Pardon The Interruption), US College Basketball (including the much-anticipated March Madness), ESPN’s Big Fights library, ESPN’s award-winning documentaries, Major conference American College Football, IndyCar racing and US NCAA college sport championships. Also on the pipeline is the localized SportsCenter Philippine Edition, and will be produced everyday from TV5 Media Center along Reliance Street in Mandaluyong. SportsCenter Philippine Edition will air on TV5 and Aksyon TV.
According to Mike Morrison, the Vice President and General Manager of ESPN Asia-Pacific, “ESPN’s focus around the world is simple: to serve sports fans. This long-term collaboration across television and digital allows us to jointly serve millions of sports fans in the Philippines with exceptional content and coverage. We are very excited about the opportunities that lie ahead as we bring ESPN’s great content, and decades of experience in sports media together with a dynamic leader in Philippine sports broadcasting like TV5.”
According to TV5 President Vincent “Chot” Reyes, “Our partnership with ESPN, long recognized as the worldwide leader in sports, gives us tremendous upside in the quality of sports programming that we bring to the market. ESPN strengthens our current position as the country’s sports authority. It is also a testament to our belief that the Filipino audience deserves the world’s best in sports content and programming.”
Sports5 reiterated that the content deal between ESPN and TV5 is “part of TV5’s effort to deliver the most comprehensive, wide-ranging sports coverage in the Philippines, with Filipino audiences benefiting from the combination of local and global sports coverage, exclusive, industry-leading news and information programming from both ESPN and TV5.”
It might be good news for Filipino sports fans who missed ESPN since its disappearance last January 28, 2013, for TV critics, it’s still too early to tell whether the venture will be successful or not, and TV critics reiterated the need for TV5 to strengthen its signal in order to fully compete against ABS-CBN’s S+A and their more local sports offerings.
The signal alone is also hampering TV5 ever since and MVP spent huge amounts of money to lure in big-name celebrities with mixed results. Nowadays, TV5 is basically a majority sports channel, with some entertainment programs (mainly US imports), news, cartoons, movies and home shopping. Was it money well spent on the new ESPN5 venture? It’s still too early to tell ESPN5’s fate, but we will look back on TV5’s overspending and sports spree next time.