Can Social Media Influence the National TV Sphere?

[Requested by MJH]

WHEN PEOPLE are asked about public relations (PR), they usually have mixed feelings about them in question — whether their products or services in a firm were favorable or not — as an adage goes: “Good or bad publicity is still publicity.” 

This holds in our national television industry.

Before the Internet, the reactions to the shows and networks that had just aired were published in print (in the entertainment section in the newspapers and specialty magazines) on the next issues. Then, there was the online world; for those who remember the early days of it, PinoyExchange comes to mind, and then, Friendster.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram grew in popularity and diversity during the previous decade (the 2010s). As a result, entertainment department executives from various TV networks and program producers were urged to include their Facebook pages and other social media handles on their title cards, fearing that they would be out of touch.

In some cases, they put the official hashtags (HTs) for each episode on the title card before the commercial break or on the left side of their screens (as the right is reserved for the station logo and the MTRCB rating).

As a result, some users can respond by tweeting with the corresponding HT. In the perspective of a social media marketer (whether working for a program or a TV network), they purposefully select praise tweets either from a specific network’s brigade or a die-hard fan and dismiss negative criticisms, even constructive ones, regardless of validity and substance. Others, on the other hand, use the same official HTs to gain clout.

Nevertheless, it’s the dynamic marketing mix for the 21st-century viewer.

We are now in the 2020s; a fifth of the current century has been passed and this decade is still relatively new. We’ve seen how last year’s twin events — a major player’s fall and a global pandemic — caused significant setbacks and pains in the industry, although social media survives and becomes a tool for protest and reform.

How did the surviving Two Major players respond? Can they be influenced in the new course of television history for the better or the worse?

GMA’s Case

Since the Old Normal, GMA has used their official hashtag of the episodes on their teleseryes during their airing no matter how preposterously long it is for a specific episode and no matter how ridiculously shortened the shows are into initials that ended up having a different, suggestive meaning (ahem, Beautiful Justice). 

In terms of non-teleserye programs, Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho (#KMJS) is the best example of the consistent use of the official hashtag. Following the airing of their episode, their Facebook page posts a motion of thanks, complete with a screenshot of the relevant hashtag on the specific Sunday episode, for being on Twitter’s trending list from the time of airing until midnight. Even though its former rival, who was fiercely competitive, won the rating metrics until 2020, KMJS stood strong and became one of the most institutional and memorable programs as a result. Some people use that hashtag and slogan to draw attention to the program’s social media marketers in the hopes of finding more interesting content in the future.

Throughout their first year of virtual dominance (May 2020-May 2021), netizens (especially a few loyal Kapuso viewers) call out for reformation within Kamuning, ranging from program structure (e.g., calls to remove All Out Sunday‘s comedic segments) to program lineup (e.g., the cancellation to air Agimat ng Agila due to the leading actor’s unforgettable involvement in the Pork Barrel Scam of 2013 and the consequences of sanitizing him as a role model).

Needless to say, both cases were dismissed; the former didn’t last long, and the latter was scheduled for last year, but the pandemic broke out, and the show remained in limbo until they were given the green light.

Worse, they continued to report AGB Nielsen TV ratings for their new teleseryes with little to no difference in percentage points compared to the pre-2020 PHTV landscape, even though their new competitor is only a few light-years away from becoming a formidable competitor.

To cut a long story short, they simply get back on their feet and go about their business as usual, as if the pandemic never happened and a close competitor still existed.

TV5’s Case

While netizens continue to muck about Timog Avenue’s monopolistic, impassive ways, what about the rising, compassionate media entity in Reliance-Novaliches?

TV5’s entertainment portfolio is one of the most diverse (Cignal, VIVA, Brightlight Productions and the ex-TV giant). As a result, the program’s treatment varies depending on the immediate production company.

They produced — or, more accurately, co-produced with Cornerstone Studios — the new version of Sing Galing and Niña Niño in their very own entertainment production unit, Cignal Entertainment.

The former program appended their hashtag at the bottom left (formerly at the bottom of the show’s logo at the top left) of the screen seen here:

The latter (the three-times-a-week teleserye) was nowhere to be found but most likely, the hashtags of that day’s episode are on their posts on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

On VIVA-produced shows (e.g. Masked Singer Pilipinas, Rolling In It PH, The Wall PH, etc.), they appended the hashtag during their runs.

In both cases, they trended for a short time during their pilot and first few episodes, but their official hashtags have since vanished from the trending list (TL).

Unlike GMA, TV5 had no hashtags or mass tweets to call attention to their internal reform, but they tried to strike a balance and please the new audiences. Even if one of its shows placed 12th out of 20 in the AGB Nielsen survey on weekdays, you never heard TV5 blaring its horns about the ratings (the only TV rating firm standing since Kantar lost its effective and specific function) — other than their newscast (Frontline Pilipinas) and Insider Facebook pages.

Conclusion: It’s no accident

But I digress; GMA and TV5’s social media presence and results are largely due to the nature of the power law, not to their respective accords or by chance. Channel 7 is perceived to be ahead of and unstoppable than Channel 5 in almost every aspect of television broadcasting (reach, attention, and so on).

To cut a long story short, being on the trending list (TL) doesn’t always imply that the media companies will make money (it mostly comes down to advertising firms deciding where to spend their money), but it does take minutes or hours of fame (or shame) and publicity to be noticed by their respective PR departments. In other words (in accounting terms), while the networks’ balance sheets may show an increase in terms of goodwill, this does not necessarily translate it in terms of revenue in their income statements.

For us, dear readers and viewers, no matter which side of the publicity they’ve taken; you will keep the receipts so they can be reminded if anything they did went wrong.

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