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ABS-CBN ends news channel, forges joint venture

By Justine Irish D. Tabile, Reporter

ABS-CBN Corp. is ceasing the operations of TeleRadyo starting on June 30 as the news channel has been incurring losses since 2020, the listed media company told the stock exchange on Tuesday.

“Since ABS-CBN can no longer sustain TeleRadyo’s operations, ABS-CBN is left with no choice but to cease the operations of TeleRadyo to prevent further business losses,” it said in a statement.

“The company is deeply saddened by this closure and having to part ways with the many passionate and committed people who have made TeleRadyo an important source of news and information for many Filipinos,” it added.

Following the announcement, ABS-CBN said it will be entering a joint venture with Prime Media Holdings, Inc.

“The new company will produce various programs, which will be supplied to broadcasters and other third-party platforms including Philippine Collectivemedia Corp.,” ABS-CBN said.

Under the agreement, Prime Media will be the majority stakeholder of the joint venture, while ABS-CBN will have a minority stake.

“This gives some of our former personnel a chance to find job opportunities. It is also a way to continue providing accurate and balanced news and information to the country,” ABS-CBN said.

Prime Media is a listed holding company that aims to hold investments in the media industry. It has been generating meager revenues and incurring losses.

“The agreement is in line with Prime Media’s strategic plan to venture into media and entertainment by securing partnerships for content development, production, and distribution to expand its business,” Prime Media said.

The venture formalizes the agreement between the two media organizations to develop, produce, and finance content for distribution to local and international broadcast networks, channels and platforms.

“This will expand Prime Media’s business segments and provide streams of revenue such as equity investment and share in future projects,” the holding firm said.

ABS-CBN did not officially disclose in its filing whether it will be laying off employees but hinted that it will be parting ways with some. TeleRadyo is a pay-television channel under the network’s News and Current Affairs brand.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said it hopes that the company will assist its media workers affected by its corporate decisions.

“While it is still unclear how these decisions will affect our colleagues, we note that many of them stayed with the company despite uncertainty and pay cuts,” NUJP said in a statement.

“They should not be abandoned now as the network seeks ways forward from the franchise troubles that it has been weathering since 2020,” it added.

During the Duterte administration, ABS-CBN was denied a new franchise, forcing it to stop its broadcast operations in May 2020.

Since then, the company has been entering partnerships to keep its operations alive such as forging deals with Gozon-led GMA Network, Inc. for international streaming and joint production, and with TV5 Network, Inc., raising opposition from legislators and leading to the partnership’s pause.

“It is saddening, while also enraging, that the effects of the rejection of ABS-CBN’s application for a new franchise are still being felt more than three years later, long after the end of the term of the president who made it known that he wanted the network off the air,” NUJP said.

In the first quarter, the company suffered an attributable net loss of P1.16 billion, narrowing the P1.38-billion loss it incurred a year ago. Its top line reached P4.26 billion, down 8.3% from P4.65 billion previously. Advertising and subscription revenues still accounted for the largest portion.

ABS-CBN’s advertising revenues reached P2.34 billion, up 57.8% from P1.48 billion, while subscription revenues declined 42.6% to P1.48 billion from P2.57 billion.

On Tuesday, ABS-CBN shares closed 37 centavos or 5.31% higher at P7.34 each, while Prime Media shares declined by 18 centavos or 6.27% to P2.69 apiece.

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