Pinoy TV goes international

Posted on June 15, 2012

WHILE FILIPINO-dubbed Mexican telenovelas and Korean drama series have captivated local audiences, a number of Pinoy TV programs are making a big splash abroad, with shows produced by major broadcast networks from the Philippines earning loyal fans in Asia, Africa, and the rest of the world.

SANA MAULIT MULI, starring Kim Chiu and Gerald Anderson, is big in Taiwan where it is known as Chances.
ABS-CBN Corp.’s primetime soap opera Pangako Sa ’Yo starring Kristine Hermosa and Jericho Rosales became a huge hit in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Singapore after the show was aired locally from 2000 to 2002.

Sporting the English title The Promise, the 480-episode drama series also became a hit for China’s national television and rated second over all local and foreign programs airing in the country in 2010.

Pangako Sa ’Yo even hit the Top 30 list in China’s national weekly rankings, which covered over 2,000 channels and capturing as much as 1.3 billion viewers.

At one point, Pangako Sa ’Yo’s Mandarin-dubbed version was being aired as often as three times a day because of the show’s popularity in China.

Outside Asia, Pangako Sa ’Yo was also shown in Kenya, Ghana, Cameroon, Tanzania, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Uganda, making African audiences instant fans of Ms. Hermosa and Mr. Rosales.

In Zambia, a newspaper article said that: "The series has become a topic of discussion among families, friends and even neighbors who daily ponder on how the show would end."

While a TV commentator in Africa said: "‘When is Pangako Sa ’Yo coming back?’ I wish I could get a dollar each time I get that question. From teenager to grandma, from household organizers to tax consultant -- it gripped people across all genders."

Journalism professor and entertainment editor Nestor G. Cuartero said Pangako Sa ’Yo paved the way for more Filipino programs to make it in international markets.

"The Philippines was under Spanish rule for 300 years. From them we got our religion, Christianity, which had become the basis of our lives. This makes us unique from the rest of Asia," Mr. Cuartero told BusinessWorld in an interview.

"If in other foreign dramas viewers see more adult content -- like more about philandering husbands and broken marriages -- in our case, our dramas are more family oriented, and have values. The characters in Filipino dramas decide based on their faith and their family, themes which appeal to a lot of viewers in other countries," he explained.

Directed by Rory B. Quintos and conceptualized for TV by a creative team headed by Olivia M. Lamasan, Pangako Sa ’Yo is a soap opera that, as ABS-CBN describes "spans three generations: of a family torn apart by deceit, anger and ambition; of a future held in chains by secrets from yesterday; and of love shrouded by a past that is bound to return."

At the heart of the drama is the love story between the wealthy political scion Angelo Buenavista (Mr. Rosales) and the poor lass from the province Yna Macaspac (Ms. Hermosa).

After its top-rating broadcast on local television, Pangako Sa ’Yo was aired on ABS-CBN’s international TV network The Filipino Channel (TFC) in 2007. Reruns of the show are currently being shown in North America via Cinema One Global, an international TV channel affiliate of TFC.


ABS-CBN pioneered international content distribution when it launched the country’s first international direct-to-home (DTH) and cable channel service through TFC.

Launched in 1994, TFC is targeted specifically at overseas Filipinos, both immigrants and temporary workers. TFC is available in various formats (DTH, cable, Internet Protocol TV [IPTV], mobile and online through TFCNow) in all territories where there is a significant market of overseas Filipinos such as the United States, the Middle East, Europe, Australia, Canada, and Japan, among others.

In July 2005, ABS-CBN -- through ABS-CBN Global Ltd.’s subsidiary, ABS-CBN International -- signed an affiliation agreement with DirecTV, one of the leading DTH system providers in the United States.

PANGAKO SA 'YO's Mandarin-dubbed version was so popular in China it was aired three times a day.

Under the deal, DirecTV has the exclusive right to distribute the TFC package on its DTH platform. In return, DirecTV will pay license fees to ABS-CBN and to ABS-CBN International.

As of end-2011, ABS-CBN Global reaches over 2.4 million viewers in over 40 countries across four continents.

Aside from Pangako Sa ’Yo, several other homegrown entertainment programs have been brought to a broader global audience through the efforts of ABS-CBN Global, which has been pitching local shows to foreign broadcasters.

"ABS-CBN shows are subtitled and dubbed in several languages, including English, Turkish, Khmer, Mandarin, and French," ABS-CBN Global said in a statement.

Chinese broadcasters brought the ABS-CBN dramas Maging Sino Ka Man (More Than Love), Gulong ng Palad (Stand for Love) and Ikaw ang Lahat sa Akin (Only You), while Sana Maulit Muli (Chances) received high ratings when it aired in Taiwan in 2008.

Bong R. Osorio, head of ABS-CBN’s corporate communications, earlier told BusinessWorld that the Taiwan Public Television Service Channel 13 bought the rights to air Sana Maulit Muli.

The show was then dubbed in Taiwanese and renamed Chances for the Taiwanese audience. Chances airs in Taiwan Mondays to Fridays at 11 p.m. to midnight.

"Chances debuted on Taiwanese television in 2008, and has attracted a steady base of loyal Taiwanese fans," Mr. Osorio said.

He, however, declined to disclose how much the Taiwanese TV station pays for the rights to air the show, saying that the amount reached "millions of pesos."

Sana Maulit Muli was aired in the Philippines from Jan. 8 to April 20, 2007. The show aired 30-minute daily episodes from Mondays to Fridays. It featured the love team of Kim Chiu and Gerald Anderson. The show focuses on the ill-fated affair of poor small-town girl Jasmine Sta. Maria (Ms. Chiu), and rich half American Travis Johnson (Mr. Anderson).

The show, which has a total of 73 episodes, has received praise for its fast-paced story telling and its unexpected plot twists -- including Jasmine’s surprising death in a bus accident after the fifth episode.

Also earning international recognition worldwide is the Angel Locsin-Piolo Pascual drama series Lobo, which aired on local TV in 2008.

With its international title She-Wolf: The Last Sentinel, the show enjoyed wide viewership in Brunei, and was also released in Indonesia, China, and Africa.

ABS-CBN shows are dubbed in French and English, and aired in the African countries of Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, Seychelles, Mauritius, Cameroon, Namibia, and South Africa.

One program that has been dubbed in French is Kay Tagal Kang Hinintay (titled La Longue Attente in French and The Long Wait in English), targetting French-speaking viewers in Europe and Africa.

"ABS-CBN programs sell so well because they resonate [with] the African audience. Our writers, directors and actors are able to capture real-life experiences on screen. Our stories show pain and suffering but in the end, give viewers a glimpse of hope. As we demonstrate that obstacles and fear may be overcome, we help mend the broken African spirit," ABS-CBN Global said.

"ABS-CBN shows have become so popular among non-Filipinos that ABS-CBN is considered a market mover in the field of broadcasting Africa. Indeed, ABS-CBN has made a mark in the global market," ABS-CBN Global said.

ABS-CBN’s international operations have steadily provided an additional source of revenues for the company. Based on ABS-CBN’s annual report for 2011, ABS-CBN Global’s revenues rose by 3% year-on-year, driven by strong double-digit subscriber growth in cable TV subscriptions, particularly in Canada and Australia.


Because of the commercial viability of selling local shows to foreign broadcasters, other local networks have followed suit.

Listed GMA Network Inc. distributes its local TV programs in two ways. One is through its subscription-based international channels -- GMA Pinoy TV, GMA Life TV, and GMA News TV International -- and the other is through GMA Worldwide (Philippines), Inc., which distributes programs through worldwide syndication sales to broadcasters in Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Launched in 2005, GMA Pinoy TV is currently available in the US, Canada, Japan, Guam, Saipan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Madagascar, and the British Indian Territory of Diego Garcia.

The channel is also available in 49 countries in Europe, 16 countries in the Middle East, and 11 countries in North Africa.

Under the carriage and licensing agreements with international cable carriers, GMA generally receives a portion of the subscription fees and is also allocated a certain number of advertising minutes which the company sells through its subsidiary, GMA Marketing and Productions, Inc.

AMAYA is one of the GMA7 shows being shown on Fox Filipino.

As of December 2011, GMA Pinoy TV’s subscriber base closed at 291,309 -- a 7% increase over the 2010 closing subscriber number of 273,317. Because of this, revenues grew by 8% year-on-year.

GMA Worldwide, meanwhile, has syndicated locally made programs to Africa, Middle East, and Europe. It has sold the rights of the Philippine adaptation of the Mexican telenovela Marimar, as well as the TV version of the komiks story Dyesabel to countries such as Uganda, Singapore, and Malaysia.

Earlier this year, GMA Worldwide announced that it signed a three-year deal with Fox International Channels for the distribution of its local shows to different countries in four continents.

In a statement, GMA Worldwide said that the deal comprised a minimum of 350 hours worth of locally produced programs and 25 feature films for airing through the cable channel Fox Filipino.

Fox Filipino was launched last March and is currently available in the Philippines via Cignal Digital TV Channel 24, Global Destiny Channel 41, and Cablelink Channel 41.

"GMA’s programs do not only appeal to domestic viewers but are steadily gaining interest and popularity among international viewers as well," GMA Worldwide vice-president Roxanne J. Barcelona said in a statement.

The company said overseas Filipino workers have also clamored for more Filipino content on different channels.

Among GMA productions delivered to Hong Kong for airing over Fox Filipino are hit local fantasy series Encantadia, Darna, Dyesebel, and Super Twins.

The company also noted the success of several Filipino television adaptations of renowned dramas: Stairway to Heaven, Trudis Liit, Babangon Ako’t Dudurugin Kita and Amaya, as well as news and public affairs programs like Wish Ko Lang, Pinoy Meets World and Pinoy Abroad.

Fox is a subsidiary of News Corp., one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world that reach millions of households worldwide.

Other than Fox, GMA Worldwide said it posted strong sales in Africa, Brunei, Korea and China in 2011, with more than 2,000 hours’ worth of programs sold to these countries.

"We are continuously launching quality series that are socially relevant yet culturally sensitive. At a time when buyers are more selective than ever, the range and depth of our programming offers them the best creative solution," Ms. Barcelona said.


Pangilinan-led TV5 has followed fellow network giants ABS-CBN and GMA-7 onto the global scene by making its TV5 International channels available in the US.

Kapatid TV5 and its news channel affiliate Aksyon TV International became available to Filipino viewers in North America starting May 23.

The service was made possible through TV5’s partnership with DISH, which is "a leader in international programming in the US and the nation’s first pay-TV provider to carry the Philippine broadcast network’s international channels."

To celebrate the launch, TV5’s game show Wil Time Bigtime, featuring host Willie Revillame, went on a two-show tour in California that kicked off on May 23 at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium, followed by another show at the Bill Graham Auditorium in San Francisco on June 2.

"TV5 International got another boost with this partnership with DISH. It signifies our continuing commitment to give Pinoy audiences the best entertainment and public service programming, wherever they may be in the world," Claro Carmelo P. Ramirez, president and chief executive of Pilipinas Global Network Ltd. (PGN), in a statement.

PGN is a joint venture between Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), and ABC Development Corp., the operator of TV5.

TV5’s Wil Time Bigtime had two live shows in the US to launch Kapatid TV5 and Aksyon TV in that country.

PGN acts as the sole and exclusive distributor and licensee of the programs, shows, films and channels of TV5. It distributes the media content via syndication and via its international linear channels, namely: Kapatid TV5 and Aksyon TV International.

Kapatid TV5 is a 24-hour general entertainment Tagalog language channel whose programming includes dramas, fantasies, comedies, variety shows, game shows, gag shows, reality shows, and news and current affairs shows.

Aksyon TV International is a 24-hour Tagalog language channel dedicated to bringing the latest in news and Philippine sports. The channel keeps Filipinos across the globe updated on the latest national and international news and current events, while keeping the viewers abreast with what’s happening in the local sports scene. While delivering compelling and up-to-date stories, most of the anchors and newscasters involve viewers in forums and discussions.

Kapatid TV5 carries most of TV5’s flagship programs such as Face to Face, Wil Time Bigtime, Babaeng Hampaslupa, Juicy, Paparazzi, Talentadong Pinoy, Sugo Mga Kapatid, Bagets, and Iskul Bukol, among others. It will also air the drama mini-series Sa Ngalan ng Ina, which features award-winning actress Nora Aunor.

Meanwhile, Aksyon TV International will air News5 programs like Aksyon, Pilipinas News, Andar ng mga Balita, Tutok Tulfo, Wanted, Dokumentado, USI, Alagang Kapatid, Cristy Ferminute, Duelo, Kalibre 41, and local sports programs.

"Our vision is to build a global community of subscribers who wish to remain connected with their Filipino roots. We shall provide our global Kapatids a bundle of services that will bring them even closer to their loved ones back home," Mr. Ramirez said.

Last August, PGN announced its entry into the Middle East, Europe and North Africa through its partner, Orbit Showtime Network (OSN), a subscription television service in these territories, which broadcasts channels in Arabic, English and Filipino languages. OSN was founded through a merger between Orbit Communications Company and Showtime Arabia. Its headquarters is in Dubai Media City in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

"We are very happy to welcome Kapatid TV5 and Aksyon TV International to the OSN platform," OSN chief executive David Butorac said in a statement. "The entry of these two premium Filipino channels further cements our drive to provide the best Philippine news and entertainment to our Filipino subscribers in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe," he added.

With OSN, Kapatid TV5 and Aksyon TV International channels are now available in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

They are also shown on the OSN market in Europe that includes Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Vatican City.

Meanwhile, PGN has teamed up with leading regional satellite operator AsiaSat to broadcast Kapatid TV5 and Aksyon TV International in Asia.

AsiaSat reaches over 96 million households, with more than 360 million viewers across the Asia-Pacific region.

PGN vice-president for Sales and Business Development Reena De Guzman-Garingan said the partnership with AsiaSat is critical for TV5’s success to penetrate all markets in Asia.

"AsiaSat is Asia’s most watched broadcast platform and it enables us to access all major pay platforms effectively and instantaneously," Ms. De Guzman-Garingan said in a statement.