Filipino faceoff lands in U.S.

GMA Pinoy TV lands in as many homes as ABS-CBN's Filipino Channel

The fierce Filipino TV ratings fight has hit U.S. shores.

GMA, which two years ago managed to topple longtime network leader ABS-CBN in the Manila audience figures, now hopes to repeat that success in the States.

GMA recently launched its international channel in the U.S., where ABS-CBN long held a near-monopoly on expat Filipino viewers.

The channel — dubbed GMA Pinoy TV — bowed in the U.S. in July 2005, airing many popular series. It was added to DirecTV’s tier of channels from the Philippines in December, putting it in almost as many homes as ABS-CBN’s the Filipino Channel (TFC).

GMA Pinoy TV reps the first real competition for TFC, which launched globally in 1994. Since then, ABS-CBN has also added a news channel, movie channel, a general entertainment channel and two radio station feeds to its international package.

Until recently, ABS-CBN offered the channels on its own direct-to-home satellite dish (as well as on cable systems around the country). But under a deal struck last July with DirecTV, the News Corp.-owned satcaster acquired ABS-CBN’s U.S. satellite subscribers.

DirecTV declines to release figures, but it’s believed that ABS-CBN is seen in more than 100,000 U.S. homes via cable and satellite. That was a number large enough for News Corp. to notice.

“We looked at ABS-CBN’s thriving business, and realized it was a business we wanted to get into,” says Aaron McNally, vice president of international at DirecTV.

While adding TFC, DirecTV pacted with ABS-CBN’s rival to add GMA Pinoy TV to its Filipino-

language tier.

That didn’t go over well at first, McNally admits.

“I’m not going to say it was a piece of cake to convince everyone at the outset,” he says. “But by joining forces, both are better off.”

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