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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fight too short, TV ads too long

THEY CAME IN A FURIOUS, mind-numbing barrage.

No, not the punches that Manny Pacquiao threw to floor Ricky Hatton in two rounds—but the load of advertisements that stretched the fight’s free TV broadcast for hours to the exasperation of millions of Filipino viewers yesterday.

Henry, an air-conditioning system technician in Quezon City, said he turned off his set in frustration after waiting more than an hour for the bout’s “‘delayed telecast’” on GMA 7.

“I already heard on radio (at around noon) that Pacquiao won,” Henry said when reached by the Inquirer at around 1:30 p.m.

“I won’t watch it on TV anymore,” he said in Filipino. “The thrill is gone. It’s so annoying.”

The main event was finally shown at around 2 p.m., but commercial breaks again chopped up the preliminaries into several parts—the entry of the fighters, Martin Nievera’s singing of the Philippine national anthem, Michael Buffer’s ring introductions—that it took another 40 minutes for Round 1 to be aired.

The GMA 7 telecast noticeably skipped the singing of the British national anthem “God Save the Queen” by Tom Jones, and another singer’s rendition of the United States’ “Star Spangled Banner.”

The Inquirer noted that some commercial gaps during the main event ran for up to 8 minutes, while airtime for the pre-fight sequences lasted only about a minute.

But according to GMA 7 insiders, not a single centavo of ad revenue from the fight went to the network.

GMA 7’s partnership with Solar Entertainment, which holds broadcast rights to Pacquiao’s bouts, is a “blocktime deal,” said network officials, who declined to be named for lack of clearance to speak on the matter.

Bigger than De La Hoya fight
“That means that all advertising revenues go to Solar Entertainment. GMA 7 only gets a fixed amount, commensurate with the air time bought by Solar,” said one of the officials.

A Solar executive confirmed that ads from the Pacquiao-Hatton mainer, as well as from the undercards, delivered the biggest payday ever for the company, which has a lock on the Philippine broadcast rights for the Pacman’s fights up to 2011.

Jude Turcuato, Solar Sports vice president for sales and marketing, said Sunday’s blockbuster duel was bigger than the Pacquiao-Oscar De La Hoya showdown held five months ago.

“It’s not big percentage-wise but we’re coming from an already big base, the De La Hoya fight. The bottom line is this is the biggest,” said Turcuato.

He declined to give exact figures, but said the company definitely made more than P100 million on Sunday.

Blanket coverage
Turcuato said the Wilson Tieng-owned media outfit scored record numbers in TV ad placements, ticket sales and pay-per-view subscriptions based on preliminary data.

Compared to the De La Hoya fight, Turcuato said Solar practically also had blanket coverage of all theaters in Metro Manila for the Hatton match.

Solar also got more bookings not only from commercial outlets such as hotels and sports bars, but also from provincial capitols and barangay halls in areas where local officials had to give in to their constituents’ clamor for a live Pacquiao fight, he said.

Turcuato noted that since the De La Hoya fight, Filipinos had been craving for more of the collective experience of watching Pacquiao in real time—not unlike the thrill shared by football fans when watching a World Cup match.

Aside from having Pacquiao pitted against a marketable opponent like Hatton, Turcuato said, the earlier tug-of-war for the broadcast rights to the fight may have also added to the hoopla.

Gaining from controversy
“The controversy actually benefited us in a way because the public became more aware of how big the fight is and it heightened their interest,” Turcuato said, referring to Pacquiao’s aborted transfer to ABS-CBN in March.

Whether Pacquiao’s next foe would be WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto or retired welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr., Turcuato said he is confident that the Pacman’s next bout will be another record-breaking day for Solar.

An ad industry insider told the Inquirer that “multimillion-peso packages” were offered to companies that wanted to place advertisements in the free TV airing of the Pacquiao-Hatton bout.

“Anywhere from P3-million to P15-million package buys were made available,” the source, an executive representing a group of advertisers, disclosed. “No spot or segment buys were allowed.”

Not covered by ad cap
“The lower packages were considered sponsorships only,” the source said. “Companies that availed themselves of P10-P15-million packages were called co-presenters or presenters.”

A broadcast industry insider noted that by partnering with GMA 7, Solar could put in as many commercials as it wanted since the Kapuso network was not covered by the ad cap imposed by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP). (See “In the Know”)

Unlike its main rival ABS-CBN, GMA 7 is not a member of the KBP.


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