A shorter PBA game?
In the last regular Monday night huddle with sportswriters and columnists at Gerry’s Grill in Tomas Morato, PBA commissioner Chito Salud passionately declared that the PBA was “still a great product” that just needed stronger a marketing and communications program.
No doubt Salud’s passion and a new sense of enthusiasm will be felt when TV5 begins its second tour of duty as PBA broadcaster when the 37th season opens. The deal involves not only the TV coverage package but a marketing plan as well to help keep the league a viable sports program option for audiences and advertisers. This is of course, a different TV5 with the team of Manny Pangilinan at the helm.
As I moved around Naga City on still another college recruitment trip for high school students, I was hoping to see restaurants or beer hubs where folk would be watching the PBA games last Wednesday. It is a common sight in key provincial cities to see fans huddled together, enjoying company, beer and food while taking in basketball action.
Intriguingly, there was no such sight. Tricycle and taxi drivers here tell me that most beer pubs have moved out of the city. There were hundreds of people in the Rizal Park in the center of the city, taking in the cool Naga air and the street food and drinks that were all around.
The question that is perhaps worth asking is not if the PBA is still a viable television and advertising vehicle but if Filipinos are still watching the game. Of course, they watch the NBA games and many young Filipinos can talk about the players and teams like experts. UAAP and NCAA games are still being followed because of school spirit and there’s nothing like rooting for one’s alma mater.
But outside of those basketball formats, are young Filipinos still watching Filipino sports programs? Are they spending more time on social networks rather than watching Pinoy TV? Filipinos still play the game passionately and most basketball courts, whether with cement or wooden floors are still filled up with alumni teams, office squads or groups of friends who just want to work up a sweat. Connecting this passion to PBA watching may be the next big marketing challenge.
There’s no question that the PBA needs to market its stars and the next TV coveror will work on that passionately. But what may also have to be worked on is the game itself. It has to be made faster, more action-packed than it already is. The 12-minute quarter, clearly borrowed from the NBA and installed as early as the first year of the PBA, may need a review.
A 10-minute quarter may be a more interesting option. The present 12-minute quarter allows for more advertising to be accommodated. But since there aren’t that many ads of late, it might be intriguing to tighten the PBA game just a tad. The pace will quicken and the players will be forced to perform at an even faster rate.
The PBA is still the league with best players in the country and it really doesn’t matter whether the myth of the Filipino cager being the best in Asia has been shattered by expanded geographical boundaries and the arrival of bigger players with Asian lineage. Tinkering with a great product won’t harm it at all, even if the PBA or basketball purists think otherwise.
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