By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
NOW the home of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the country, Cignal TV, Inc. expressed its excitement, seeing it as very significant in filling a huge space in the puzzle in its push to be the premier destination for sports programming in the Philippines.
Officially sealed on Monday, Cignal TV, along with Smart Communications, Inc., will carry NBA games through free-to-air, satellite television and over-the-top streaming for the remainder of the ongoing 2019-2020 season and for the next three years.
No financial details were provided though.
For Cignal TV officials, to have the NBA in its roster of offerings is a giant leap for the group, the potential of which they cannot wait to explore.
“The NBA is a huge piece of the puzzle, basketball is so loved here in the country and having it pretty much completes our basketball offering since we also have the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association),” said Guido Zaballero, Cignal first vice-president and head of marketing, when sought for comment by BusinessWorld.
“It took a while for us to get the NBA, but we are excited and honored to have it with us finally as the NBA is one of the biggest sports properties there is,” he added.
Cignal’s broadcast of the games begins on July 31, Friday, when the NBA resumes its season after suspending it on March 12 because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
The league plays the remainder of its season in a “bubble” setup at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, where the 22 qualified teams will be holed up throughout the tournament.
Cignal TV takes over from Solar Entertainment, long the home of the NBA here, whose contract with the The Association ended in September last year but decided not to renew it.
With the NBA now in their fold, Robert P. Galang, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Cignal and TV5, said they are committed to bringing the games the best way possible anchored on their collective vision as an organization.
“As a group under our boss Manuel V. Pangilinan, we are committed to bringing the best sports content to our various platforms and we want to be the premier destination for sports,” said Mr. Galang in a separate interview.
He went on to say that Cignal, as the country’s most subscribed pay TV provider in the Philippines, presents a good platform for the NBA to continue to reach more Filipino fans.
“With Cignal, awaiting the NBA is our 2.3 million subscribers on pay TV across the country. It can be reassured that we will bring the games to as many people as possible for the NBA to be appreciated some more,” he said.
Apart from pay TV, Mr. Galang said games will also air on free TV over TV5 and ONE Sports as well as other online platforms like Cignal Play.
“[The NBA] can be assured that we will bring the games to more homes and people,” said the Cignal president even as he shared that aside from the games that the NBA will provide them, they will also produce local shows to complement their offering.
The Cignal officials acknowledge that the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic presents some limitations, particularly in physical fan engagements, in the short term, but they reiterated that these will not stop them from looking for ways to keep the passion of local fans for the NBA burning.
“Unfortunately because of the limitations presented by COVID-19 much of our fan engagements will be done through digital efforts and social media. But we want to tell them (fans) that we share their passion for the NBA and we will exert every effort to bring the NBA that best way we can with them in mind. The NBA is home. So stay tuned,” said Mr. Zaballero