'Bloodbath': What ABS-CBN has lost a year since franchise rejection
This article is part of a series commemorating the House of Representatives' 70-11 vote on July 10, 2020 rejecting ABS-CBN's franchise renewal.
MANILA— The non-renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise a year ago wiped the luster off its once vibrant headquarters in Quezon City. But the dimmed studio lights and the silenced crowd cheers were not the only casualties.
It was a "bloodbath," said veteran news anchor Korina Sanchez, describing the impact of the non-renewal on the network's day-to-day operations and its employees.
In the following months, many broken-hearted workers would leave the building for the last time, carrying boxes of memorabilia they had accumulated for years. Thousands lost their jobs as multiple businesses folded.
TRUE COST OF A FRANCHISE LOST
On July 10, 2020, the House of Representatives voted to deny ABS-CBN’s application for another 25-year franchise. The resolution directly affected the company’s free-to-air services, which are mainstream platforms for advertising.
Millions had lost their trusted news and entertainment source on May 5, 2020 after the network’s free TV and radio operations went off the air following a cease and desist order from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) after its franchise expired.
Current Affairs programs and many other shows were discontinued as the former TV titan scaled-down operations.
The airing of TVPlus channels as well as the direct-to-home satellite broadcast of SKYcable were also ordered shut by the NTC on June 30.
To say billions of pesos were lost is an understatement.
ABS-CBN Corp’s consolidated revenue was cut in half in 2020 largely due to the non-renewal of its congressional franchise aggravated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data submitted by the company to the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE).
Advertising revenues and consumer sales declined last year, which brought the total consolidated revenue for 2020 to P21.4 billion, a steep 50 percent drop compared to the P42.8 billion in 2019.
Advertising revenues for 2020 fell 69.2 percent to P7 billion compared to P22.9 billion the previous year. Consumer sales also crashed by 27.8 percent in 2020 compared to P19.8 billion in 2019.
At least 45 percent of TV ad spending were lost due to the network’s franchise non-renewal, Philippine Association of National Advertisers (PANA) President Marvin Tiu Lim said in July.
For the full year 2020, the Lopez-led firm incurred a net loss of P13.5 billion, 411.5 percent higher compared to the P2.64 billion net loss in 2019.
Despite the aggressive rollout of its digital channels and other offerings, which helped mitigate the losses, the network continues to bleed this year.
For 2021, the net loss in the first quarter was at P1.9 billion.
'BROKEN DREAMS' AND MORE UNIT SHUTDOWNS
In the weeks that followed the franchise rejection, ABS-CBN was forced to shut businesses, starting with those considered as non-core activities.
In its annual report submitted to the PSE, ABS-CBN said it was forced to cease operations of several other businesses such as food and beverage and its Live Experiences, among others.
KidZania Manila, the interactive city made for kids, was shut effective Aug. 31 partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
ABS-CBN and CJ ENM Company Limited’s joint venture ACJ O Shopping Corp ceased to operate in 2020 after selling goods on-air and online for 7 years. Retrenchment of these workers started last Aug. 7, 2020.
But shutting down its regional stations was perhaps among the most painful moves ABS-CBN had to make.
In far-flung areas, farmers, fishermen, laborers and many indigent families had been relying on ABS-CBN's regional TV and radio broadcasts for disaster information and other useful news. Many of them were left in the dark following the broadcast shutdown of regional operations.
A total of 53 regional TV and radio stations bade farewell on Aug. 28. Thousands also lost their jobs in the process.
With the folding of several of its businesses, ABS-CBN was forced to implement a retrenchment program.
Elvira "Tootsy" Angara, sales cluster head for ABS-CBN Corp and wife of Sen. Sonny Angara, said she grieved for the retrenched workers' "broken dreams."
ABS-CBN Corp laid off workers effective August 31, 2020.
ABS-CBN and its subsidiaries had a total of 11,071 employees, including those classified as independent contractors, former head of ABS-CBN corporate services Mark Nepomuceno said in July 2020 during the franchise hearings.
At the end of 2020, the company disclosed it had only 5,932 employees, including independent contractors.
Despite the setback, ABS-CBN has been forging partnerships, ramping up its online presence, and creating news and entertainment content it is known for, for its loyal Filipino viewers here and abroad.
"The Company continues to explore and intends to pursue all available remedies and courses of action, and will comply with relevant legal, regulatory and contractual requirements, to be able to sustain its current and future business operations, which do not necessarily involve broadcast only," it said in its annual report.
FROM OUR ARCHIVES: