For the 3rd time, PBA trounces the Olympics on TV5

The Tokyo 2020(+1) Olympics will be the bluest in history. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Games was postponed for a year and due to threats of mutating variants, no spectators — foreign or local — will be admitted to watch the action and to support their athletes. Some important traditions — from the opening, the competition proper and until the closing — are modified to prevent the spread of the virus.

NINETEEN (19) INDIVIDUALS — competing in 11 sports — form as one Team Philippines (PHI), as they aim for the first, elusive Olympic gold medal to cheer the country up in these gloomy times. 

The delayed Tokyo Olympics will finally open this Friday (July 23) amidst no spectators; albeit, preliminary competitions have started today for football and softball.

For TV5, this is the third time — fifth, if you include the Winter Games of Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018 — they acquired the broadcast rights through Dentsu. However, this has been again obscured because the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) has just tipped off its 46th season as they try to go back to normal as they can, despite the recent internal controversies and viewership dissatisfaction these past few days. 

Unlike the NBA, our most cherished domestic league seemed to disrespect or refuse to yield to the sacred period of this international multi-sporting event. (Recently, Team USA’s tune-up exhibition games have gone bonkers with some upset losses before the competition.)

According to our Monthly Media Survey conducted just last week, the respondents were nearly unanimous (88%) that the network prioritized PBA over this two-week-long international quadrennial (in simple terms: every four years) meet.

But they are not the only league that would crash them this year, it clashed with the inaugural professional season of the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) where they are playing in Ilocos Norte. Effectively, this is a juggling act for the sports department in the Reliance/Novaliches.

Before the 16 days of action in the Land of the Rising Sun officially begins, let’s take a glimpse of the two previous Summer Games TV5 has recently handled.

TV5’s Acts with the Past 2 Olympics

London 2012

  • Dates: July 27 to August 12, 2012
  • Time Zone Difference: 7 hours behind Manila (due to British Summer Time)

Their sportscasting coverage was mostly under AKTV, a primetime blocktime agreement, on IBC 13 and Hyper (for Cignal subscribers) as the mother channel tried to offer differently in terms of entertainment from the South Triangle.

On AKTV, the best-of-seven PBA Governors’ Cup Finals were underway between B-Meg Llamados (now, Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok) and Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in Araneta Coliseum. Both teams won one game apiece and Game 3 was tipped off nine hours before the Opening Ceremony in the Olympic Stadium (aired live on the mother channel); Rain or Shine won that game and led 2-1.

After Game 4 (July 29), RoS was one game short of victory but B-Meg caught up and upended them on August 5 (at the midpoint of the Games). 

Meanwhile, in London, Team Philippines, consisting of 11 athletes for 8 events, finished the journey empty-handed.

The closing ceremonies on August 13, 2012 was interrupted due to Good Morning Club but they compensated the uninterrupted telecast on AKTV on IBC.

The heavy cost of the broadcast rights to be paid to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and their carrying agreement with a government network that earned constant, chronic losses significantly contributed to the expiration of the said blocktime agreement the following year.

Rio de Janeiro 2016

  • Dates: August 5 to 21, 2016
  • Time Zone Difference: 11 hours behind Manila

This time, their sportscasting coverage was split between the mother channel, Aksyon TV (diluted from being a news channel) and once again, on Hyper.

The same conference in PBA (Governor’s Cup) was underway but at that time, on the elimination round.

We were very pessimistic about Team Philippines’ outcome in the Olympics… until Hidilyn Diaz snatched the barbell and ended 20 years of the medal drought in Rio de Janeiro.

Barely anyone knew the developments of Team Philippines (which comprised 13 athletes in 8 events) in Brazil; they were initially dismissive. They didn’t see our contingent’s performance as a big deal until 25-year-old Zamboangueña, Hidilyn Diaz, lifted the barbell for the women’s 53 kg weightlifting category and won a silver medal just a few days into the Games that ended a two-decade medal drought.

Both artistic ceremonies were covered on the main channel.

What might be on their third?

With PBA and PVL already on, One Sports, One Sports+ (replacing Hyper) and a special channel for Cignal will cover the selected sporting actions as the mother channel (TV5) cannot let go of the teleseryes of Mother Ignacia and the Pambansang Liga. Bookend artistic ceremonies — the opening and closing — will take place on the sacred game days of the league (Friday and Sunday, respectively) and it is disrespectful for those who want to see the spectacle of the host city, if any. (With that, you might need a digibox, a Cignal Play app or YouTube to watch them seamlessly from commercial breaks consisting of MVP-owned companies.)

During the Games proper, if the competition of any of our contingents takes place in the morning live, that’s fine for One Sports because Tokyo is one hour ahead of Manila.

However, if their competitions take place in the afternoon, there will be a conflict with the two domestic leagues desperately needing action. Come later in the afternoon and the early evening, the PBA would be prioritized over the action of the Games.

Despite all this impending programming conflicts and juggling acts, there will be a daily Olympics highlight show to track Team Philippines’ campaign. Those momentous events that missed the action live will be telecast at an available and convenient time (even on the following day).

Can PBA give way in 2024?

It seems that the TV network management, the league’s management, or both never learned to give way. Following the Rule of Three principle, this is inevitably and convincingly a habit that cannot be reformed.

It’s saddened for the Filipino Olympic fans out there that TV5 will see this international event as a no big deal, much worse than the American treatment made by NBC. And you know what will happen if any of our athletes get the first gold medal within the next fortnight, you’ll point fingers to both parties for missing the opportunity to capture that moment by prioritizing a more cherished league that wanted some sense of normalcy.

About two-thirds of the same survey respondents would rather wait until the Olympics is over to start the league.

The league could go the extra mile during an Olympic year. While we cannot reduce the teams anymore and other than reducing the number of conferences to two (which is their implementing plan right now), they can reduce the number of games in the playoff format (which we have to wait and see).

However, we doubt that will happen because we’re so idealistic.

After these Games, when we go back to the regular, normal cycle in 2024 in Paris, will they ever redeem themselves and give them a proper space? Alas, 78% of the respondents would doubt the Board of Governors to give in to our suggestions.

Let them be reminded that the next cycle will be crammed into three years instead of four to balance the normal cycle. Within that cycle, the FIBA World Cup which we will host a lion’s share of games in 2023 will determine the qualifications for the next Olympics. They have to act ahead.


With all being expressed, nonetheless, we wish Team PHI the best of luck. Go for gold!


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Photos courtesy of Reuters and the Associated Press

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