MANILA,  February 18, 2004 (STAR) By Zinnia B. Dela Peña - Following the successful launch of its European operations last year, media giant ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. is now looking into expanding its presence in Canada in line with the continued development of its international business.

Maloli Manalastas, ABS-CBN vice-president for government affairs, said the network will pursue plans to penetrate Canada as part of efforts to tap the large market of Filipino workers in the area, and eventually contribute in improving profitability. "We can’t increase advertising rates that’s why we have to look for other markets," she said.

Manalastas said the company is now in talks with a satellite provider or cable operator from Canada for a possible partnership. The only problem she sees that could derail the signing of a deal is the issue on programming content. The Canadian government wants 60 percent of the shows to be aired to comprise of Canadian program, leaving the remaining 40 percent to foreign programs.

ABS-CBN Global Ltd., a wholly-owned offshore subsidiary of ABS-CBN, launched last year its cable and direct-to-home/satellite programming services in Milan, Italy through The Filipino Channel (TFC), the first and only 24-hour cable and satellite service that offers all-Filipino programming.

The launch of TFC in Milan is in response to the increasing demand for entertainment and news programs in the rapidly growing overseas Filipino market in Italy.

ABS-CBN Global is the holding company which runs TFC, ABS-CBN News Channel, Cinema One, and Pinoy Central in the US and the Middle East. During the first half of 2003, the company’s worldwide subscribers had grown by 30 percent to 167,636 from a year ago, fueled by the 73-percent expansion in North America.

TFC is seen by almost a million overseas Filipinos in North America, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, New Caledonia, Cambodia, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Papua New Guinea and Europe.

ABS-CBN Global was a key driver behind the 44-percent growth in the network’s net sales in the first semester of 2003. This unit pumped in P1.12 billion or 47-percent higher than the previous year due to the expansion in worldwide subscribers.

International operations currently account for 15 percent of ABS-CBN’s total revenues.

Ricardo Puno, ABS-CBN senior vice-president for news and current affairs, meanwhile, said the network is also set to establish more news bureaus to further widen its coverage. It plans to put up news bureaus in the East Coast and in Milan given the high concentration of Filipinos working and living in those areas.

ABS-CBN, which started its global expansion in 1998, has started exporting its locally produced programs like soap operas, games shows and youth programs in the international market through its international sales and distribution. These programs were sold in Africa, Latin American and Asian countries.

Because of the strong growth of the global business, ABS-CBN has been planning to list the international unit in a foreign stock exchange. ABS-CBN Global sees a 20-percent growth in gross revenues and a 30-percent growth in subscriber base through the three-pronged strategy of better programming, more non-entertainment products, and improved customer relationships.

Banking on its aggressive and innovative marketing strategies and new programming initiatives, ABS-CBN is optimistic that 2004 will be another banner year in terms of profitability and market share.

The company expects profits this year to be in line with its revenue growth with international operations and advertising revenues driving the growth. For 2003, the company expects profits to reach P1 billion.

ABS-CBN is the largest media broadcasting in the Philippines, reaching more than 97 percent of the country’s television-owning households. It airs TV broadcasts 20 hours a day on Channel 2 in Metro Manila and through 26 TV stations and nine affiliates throughout the country. It also broadcasts radio programming through 19 radio stations.

The Bulk of its revenues is derived from selling advertising time on its TV and radio broadcasts.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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