Philippine ABS-CBN to return on free TV via Zoe’s Channel 11

A guard passes logo of ABS-CBN at the network’s compound, a day it was ordered shut by National Telecommunications Commission, May 6, 2020. The STAR/Michael Varca. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

MANILA, Oct 6, 2020, PhilStar. Broadcast giant ABS-CBN Corp. is returning to free TV starting Saturday after striking a deal with Zoe Broadcasting Network Inc. operating channel 11. In a statement on Tuesday, the Lopez-led network gave little details of its broadcast comeback, saying only that “some entertainment shows and movies” the company produces will be seen on a “rebranded” A2Z Channel 11, formerly Zoe TV, The Philippine Star reported.

“A2Z channel 11 will be seen on analog TV in Metro Manila and nearby provinces,” ABS-CBN said. Other details such as which programs will be aired on the channel were not released.

Rumors of the deal first surfaced on Monday to which investors reacted by buying in ABS-CBN stocks that rose as much as 50% that day. Before the deal was announced after trading hours on Tuesday, the Lopez-led media giant neither confirmed nor denied the existence of a partnership.

ABS-CBN shares succumbed to some profit taking on Tuesday, ending down 14.93% at P9 apiece. Stock prices at the network’s holding firm, ABS-CBN Holdings Corp., also declined 16.03% to P8.75 each.

That said, the return of ABS-CBN on free TV— via a channel owned by Jesus Is Lord Church led by Eddie Villanueva— would be welcomed by investors that months ago sold on the company when lawmakers at the Lower House denied it of a fresh 25-year franchise to air.

Even before that, the Duterte administration departed from the tradition and shut down the network last May 5, a day after ABS-CBN’s franchise expired. In past instances, franchise holders were allowed to operate provisionally while lawmakers hear a new franchise application.

Around 5,000 of over 11,000 jobs in the network were killed by the license denial, while top Lopez family officials, who came under attack from the government, also stepped down from their posts last month.

Since then, the media giant has discontinued other non-core businesses such as operating the KidZania amusement center in Taguig and devoted resources to a digital shift, which has yet to pay off. As of the first half, which captures the initial two months of ABS-CBN shutdown, the network operated in a net loss of P3.93 billion.

From here on, Luis Limlingan, managing director at Regina Capital brokerage, said investors would be looking for what comes out of the deal with Zoe Broadcasting.

“Perhaps they will look at the strategy moving forward, what programs to air, ads generated, other potential revenue streams, synergies (and) how wide (is the) reach of the network,” he said in a Viber message.

April Lee Tan, research head at COL Financial, agreed. “It depends on the details of the deal and how many shows (will be aired), but definitely it is good news for the company,” Tan said in a text message.

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