MANILA -- ABS-CBN Corp expects a "full recovery" in profitability this year as it grows its digital properties while solidifying its lead in its core TV business, president and CEO Carlo L. Katigbak said Thursday.
The country's largest media and entertainment company has been "exceeding" many of its targets in the January to March period after a "very challenging" 2018, wherein industry-wide TV ad revenues fell an estimated 6 percent, Katigbak said.
"We are well-positioned for a rebound," Katigbak told ABS-CBN's annual stockholder's meeting."We are confident that there will be a full recovery of our profitability this year."
ABS-CBN's net income reached P1.9 billion in 2018, down 40 percent from the previous year. Inflation and higher taxes on sweetened beverages hurt TV ad spending, he said.
The company filed for a renewal of its franchise, which will expire in 2020, Katigbak said, in response to a question from a shareholder.
"It is clearly an uncertain time for ABS-CBN. We are faced with threats from many directions: changing consumer habits, disruptive technology, political headwinds and new competition," he said.
ABS-CBN overcame challenges in the past and emerged "better, stronger and more relevant."
"Regardless of what the future holds, our commitment is to continue serving our audiences and our public in any way that we can. This is our calling, one that will never dim. This is why we exist," he said.
ABS-CBN last year accelerated its five-part transformation program, which includes transforming to digital, growing its experience business, expanding to audiences outside the Philippines, public service and maintaining its broadcast leadership.
"Technology and audiences are changing at an exponential rate. This change will continue to expand and disrupt and today, our industry finds itself in the middle of its winds," he said.
"Our ability to reinvent ourselves while anchored on our mission to serve the Filipino will be at the core of our longevity and success," he said.
Video streaming platform iWant, relaunched last year, got 60 million views in December 2017. ABS-CBN.com is the third most visited website for Filipinos, behind Google and Facebook. On YouTube, ABS-CBN has 15 million subscribers while ABS-CBN News has 5.6 million, he said.
ABS-CBN Music is a "shining example" of the digital shift, with 92 percent of total revenues coming from digital after it focused on streaming and events.
"Digital is our fastest-growing business to date," he said, adding the nearly P1 billion in digital revenues last year accounted for 13 percent of the total.
Syndication sales rose 30 percent driven by Africa and after the launch of "It's Showtime" in Indonesia, ABS-CBN is eyeing Latin America, he said.
ABS-CBN bet its international film foray on "Yellow Rose" co-starring Lea Salonga, "Eerie" starring Charo Santos-Concio and Bea Alonzo and "Quezon's Game," about refugees from the Nazi regime, he said.
"The world has become a global market and we aim to make content the primary export of our company. It's time we make Filipino talent shine in the world stage," he said.
International initiatives accounted for 15 percent of total revenues in 2018, he said.
ABS-CBN dominated TV ratings, aided by close to 7 million homes with its TVplus digital box, Katigbak said. In Metro Manila, 7 in 10 homes without cable use TVplus, 6 in 10 in the suburbs, he said.
News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.