[QuOP No. 17] Expanding Horizons: Can GMA Regional TV’s Newscast Beat the Former Competitor?

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: ALMOST FIVE YEARS AGO, I published a blog post about a different tug of war (which is not within the South Triangle): about the share of national and regional newscasts. In that post, Metro Manila’s happenings are integrated into the national newscast, which drew much irritation for those outside the concerned area that is not considered a big deal. I decided to revisit that post and apply it to a more concrete conjecture.]

LAST MONTH, I read a piece from Karl Aguilar (a.k.a. the Urban Roamer) on Medium about how regions of our country should be divided. Currently, we have 17 but he thought that it was arbitrary and meaningless. In that specific entry, he reimagined it based on multicultural linkages and logistics; he came up with 21.

After reading his reimagined divisions, it popped out an idea from my head: How would GMA Network expand its regional newscasts to that number? It seems that they can surpass the number of their previous competitor before their closure last year by switching the digits around.

It was obvious why they stood out among the remaining national TV networks: TV5 cannot because they have the PBA underway (season on hiatus due to the “Tiny Bubbles”-esque Enhanced Community Quarantine); CNN Philippines cannot partake due to the nature of its name, and state-owned and controlled networks have a small budget and would need approval from and alignment with the whims of the sitting President.

With Kamuning resting easily on the revenues (more advertisers are piling up and being a non-KBP member, their floodgates are opened wide), they stay so complacent from improving their qualities of new teleseryes amidst the health safety protocols of taping (well, save for Legal Wives), the next best thing that they can do is expanding their regional newscasts to capture the audience who watches that localized genre made by their former rival. 

The Present Standing and Prospects for Expansions (Within 12 Months)

As of August 2021, GMA Regional TV has five active regional newscasts that last half an hour every weekday (from north to south, west to east): Balitang Amianan, Balitang Bicolanda, One Western Visayas, Balitang Bisdak, and One Mindanao. This meant that those who rely only upon outside antenna will miss the first 30 minutes of Wowowin.

The primary language of delivering the news varies to the region in concern and understandable: Balitang Bicolandia uses Bicolano, One WV with Hiligaynon, Balitang Bisdak and One Mindanao in Cebuano. Only Balitang Amianan uses Filipino because the coverage area they serve contains few languages (Ilocano, Pangasinense and Kapampangan).

There is a teaser in the social media that their Zamboanga station is opening this month; thus, a dedicated local newscast (No. 6) is coming by either this year or the next. They will definitely use Chavacano when they come on the air.

Also, they have job postings for the Batangas station, which could mean that by next year, they will be No. 7.

The Hypothetical Game Plan

In this scheme, the current facilities (studios and transmitters) of their regional newscasts situated in one location should be confined to that immediate region.  Those newscasts that have two or more facilities will have to split. The running time and frequency will remain the same, as it is their first priority.

Following Aguilar’s reimagined divisions, this is how the regional newscasts (as of this publication date) of GMA would run (upcoming newscasts are italicized):

GMA’s Regional Newscast in QuestionThe Fate of Service under the Reimagined Regions
Balitang AmiananConfined to the Ilocos Region (Northwest Luzon, in his terms)
Balitang BicolandiaUnchanged (albeit, they might need to rename as One Southeast Luzon)
One Western VisayasSplit into two: One Panay and One Negros (which includes Siquijor)
Balitang BisdakConfined to Central Visayas (without Negros Oriental and Siquijor)
One MindanaoConfined to Davao Region
Unnamed Zamboanga newscast (2021/22)Unchanged (Misamis Occidental will be served there)
Unnamed Batangas newscast (~2022)Confined to South Luzon (Batangas, Romblon and Quezon province)

It will be transformed from seven (five active and two upcoming) into eight regional news services. How many more do we need? You would need 13 more regional news services (including Greater Manila).

How Long is the Campaign?

Of course, this expansion plan will not materialize overnight; it’s impossible. You would need a Gantt chart or a PERT estimation technique more appropriately.

In PERT, you have to determine three points of estimates: the optimistic, the pessimistic and the most likely.

Optimistic (Unrealistic) Estimate

Had the pandemic never happened and the company changed their capital expenditure strategy to aggressive, we could’ve given GMA Regional TV at least four years to expand (longer than three as they intended). The breakdown of new regional newscasts could’ve been like this: 2 in 2022, 4 each in 2023 and 2024, 3 in 2025.

Pessimistic Estimate

Considering the construction slowdown due to the crazy-quilt community quarantine levels across the country — especially with the ECQ in Metro Manila that requires some qualified professional staff to conduct on-site feasibility and to find the final approval — this could prolong to six years (2022-27) at a rate of 2 regional newscast expansions per year. (This will constitute a pessimistic estimate.)

Therefore, it would most likely estimate that five years to expand.

Even if their rival in Mother Ignacia returned on the air by a friendlier presidential administration in H2 next year or in 2023, the hypothetical expansion timeframe will likely not be upended (maybe, gradually) as they would need time to recover the digital frequencies they lost — they can no longer apply the analog counterparts (thanks, Jayson Bustamante, for the tip) — and would have to train both the returning and newly hired operating staff.

That all being said, regardless, the programming department from their central HQ in Timog Avenue has two options with Wowowin and 24 Oras. They don’t want to intervene with the highest-rated teleserye:

Options for WowowinAudience ResponseFate for 24 Oras
Reduce running time to an hour (5:30-6:30 p.m.)Upsetting for Metro Manila and cab/sat viewers but provincial viewers will be much happier to catch up and compete in an even playing field with the Metro viewers in the participating segments. Running time remains unchanged; Metro Manila news items will gradually decrease
Bump off by half an hour (5:30-7:00 p.m.)Same enjoyment between provincial and Metro viewers.Running time reduces to 60 minutes; Metro Manila news items will gradually decrease as a roundup segment.
Your answer will be decided in our survey next week.

[A side thought: If Karl’s reimagined regions did happen, CLTV would no longer serve seven provinces but instead, it will be four (sans Aurora, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija). In such a thing, the origin of the branding identity would not live up to its name.]

QUESTION: Can GMA Regional TV expand up to 21 newscasts in a few years? If not, how many? 

Your answers will be heard in our monthly survey which will be deployed next week.

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