No. 1 web beats rival at its own game

GMA Network country's most profitable TV company

MANILA GMA, the longtime No. 2 to giant network ABS-CBN, is no longer the shrinking bridesmaid of Philippine broadcasting. It is now the triumphant bride.

After trailing the Lopez family-owned media conglom throughout the 1990s and into this decade, it is now beating its rival for ratings and profits.

Five years ago, GMA ratings were only a fourth of ABS-CBN’s, its gross revenue just a tenth of its rival’s.

Today, GMA Network is the country’s most profitable TV company — for the second year.

In the first quarter of this year, ABS-CBN reported a net profit of P124 million ($2.2 million). GMA reported double that at $4.4 million and expects to have a record $28.4 million in profits for the year.

The network began to outdistance ABS-CBN in ratings in December last year.

ABS-CBN was first to discard foreign shows from its programming. GMA, like most local networks, was still heavy on foreign programs but followed ABS-CBN’s suit.

Felipe Gozon, GMA Network chairman, prexy and CEO, wasted no time in cracking the formula behind ABS-CBN’s dominance in the early evening sudsers, which featured locally produced shows that starred bigscreen idols.

Soon GMA was producing what TV audiences perceived to be more content-rich local soaps with powerful casts. And more.

A teenage talent search cum reality show called “Starstruck” was a phenomenon that made GMA the focus of attention during sudser time at ABS-CBN.

A reconfiguring of a late afternoon magazine show into a “Survivor”-type local reality show called “Extra Challenge,” gave GMA more success.

Although ABS-CBN hit back with successful fantasy series “Marina,” whose heroine is a mermaid, GMA created a better-conceived, better-written and quality-produced fantasy called “Mulawin,” about legendary bird people, with epic battles and environmental themes. It is the current primetime hit and No. 1 in its timeslot.

GMA also strengthened its public affairs programs, winning the George Peabody Award in 1999 — the first for any Philippine broadcast organization — and another prestigious global award in 2003.

GMA’s people know ABS-CBN will do everything that it can to reclaim its lost leadership. But they’re ready for the battle.

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