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GMA Network boosts Luzon viewership, opens Ilocos and Bicol stations

GMA Network Inc. (GMA) firmed up its nationwide leadership by launching two additional originating stations in Luzon.
In June this year, the company opened its originating station in Ilocos thru Channel 5 in Ilocos Norte and Channel 48 in Ilocos Sur, covering parts of Abra.
The Ilocos station – an investment worth over P100 million – has competitive signal strength that services over 218,000 estimated television households.
In August, the company launched another originating regional station in Bicol with capital expenditures worth over P100 million. GMA Bicol is now seen in the provinces of Albay and Camarines Sur and will soon be seen in Sorsogon, Masbate, and Catanduanes for an estimated television audience of over 805,000 households.
The GMA Bicol originating station followed GMA Naga’s impressive bottom-line performance as a satellite station since its launch in 2009. GMA Naga consistently delivered double-digit annual net income growth until its recent conversion to a full-blown originating station.
GMA Network expansion is 'good for whoever is the owner of this network'
Talks with a serious buyer are not stopping the company's investments to boost its viewership. GMA Chairman and CEO Felipe Gozon told reporters in a press briefing Wednesday the negotiations with Manny V. Pangilinan, owner of competing network ABC5, have no bearing on the network’s expansion plans. “If you are in our place and you are not sure that the deal will push through, aren’t you going to do the same?” Gozon noted. “Any delay will adversely delay our company. Why will we let our future depend on the buyer? Last June, the network opened its stations in Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur via Channel 5 and Channel 48, respectively. The company said P120 million was so far spent on its Bicol station which was launched this month. Chief financial officer Felipe Yalong said that the network has set aside P160 million to complete the Bicol project and P115 million for Ilocos. GMA Ilocos and GMA Bicol are on top of the network’s existing stations in Cebu, Davao, Iloilo and Dagupan. GMA chose the Ilocos region because of its thriving economy, and is now tapping a segment of household viewers in Bicol “which we have admittedly ignored in the past,” Gozon said. In the event that the deal with Pangilinan pushes through, Gozon said, “That will prove to you that these talks could go one way or the other. “In whatever way it goes, it (the expansion) is good for whoever is the owner of this network,” he said. — Marc Jayson Cayabyab/VS, GMA News
GMA Ilocos and GMA Bicol are increments to GMA’s four originating stations in Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, and Dagupan – all revenue contributors to date from the start of regional operations in 2006.
GMA Chairman and CEO Felipe L. Gozon said the additional regional stations were part of an aggressive strategy to capture the interest of Filipino viewers from different parts of the country. “We study and customize our response to the diverse programming needs of viewers from different parts of the country. The newly opened Ilocos and Bicol stations service the locals, who are used to using their own regional languages,” Gozon says.
GMA President and COO Gilberto R. Duavit Jr. said both stations are technically capable of producing local programs and are equipped with microwave and satellite facilities. He added that the stations are equipped with active newsgathering systems capable of delivering news coverage within the originating or neighboring provinces that can be aired locally or nationwide.
“We are excited by the opportunity to share more of our programs – both national and soon local – with our valued viewers in the Ilocos and Bicol regions, and look forward to their making GMA a bigger part of their regular viewing time,” Duavit says.
These stations in strategic areas outside Mega Manila have been instrumental in increasing revenue for the network and in growing GMA’s overall viewership nationwide.
GMA’s sustained nationwide ratings supremacy that commenced in 2011 was mainly driven by strong weekday and weekend programming across all time blocks and ratings increments in the Visayas and Mindanao regions.
GMA’s localized programming content is now complemented by respective news and public affairs programs in the Ilocos and Bicol regions.
“Balitang Ilokano,” anchored by veteran broadcast journalist Jorge Guerrero, covers a broad range of topics from politics, religion, natural calamities, to regional festivals. The Ilokano-speaking newscast, which airs daily over GMA Ilocos from 5:10 p.m. to 5:50 p.m., is fast becoming a preferred information source in the north through good reviews from the online community and trade.
Meanwhile, “Baretang Bikol” brings a local flavor to GMA’s brand of news delivery. Anchored by veteran journalist Elmer Caseles, the newscast will go on-air beginning Sept. 17 from 5:10 p.m. to 5:50 p.m.
Both newscasts have multi-link systems that make it possible to air live reports from Laoag to Vigan (for “Balitang Ilokano”), and from Legazpi to Naga (for “Baretang Bikol”). The newscasts are manned by trained correspondents, and powered by state-of-the-art broadcast equipment. — VS, GMA News