MANILA,  April 28, 2004
SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - The final buzzer sounded before the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Board of Governors could tackle a proposal to remeasure the imports playing in the Fiesta Conference at a meeting in Mandaluyong the other day.

The marathon meeting took almost five hours to finish, leaving no time to discuss Talk N’ Text representative Ricky Vargas’ proposal. PBA commissioner Noli Eala had planned to take up certain issues related to the transition season but those concerns were also tabled.

The items left out of the discussion will be listed in the agenda for a special Board meeting to be set possibly next week.

So what took nearly five hours to discuss? First, the financial report. That’s usually last in the agenda but the Board decided to look into the figures ahead. Second, the findings of an A. C. Nielsen survey conducted last February. The presentation was made by Jay Bautista, the leader of a three-man team that undertook the survey in Metro Manila.

Eala’s report on the numbers was glowing. There was reason to crow. As of last April 25, the PBA attendance was up to over 132 million in Metro Manila or a 12.1 percent increase from the same period the previous year. That translated into an average attendance of 5,113 paying customers compared to 3,946 last year or a whopping 30 percent increase. Adding the 800 complimentary tickets distributed every game day, the average attendance was about 6,000.

Compared to two years ago, the increase in attendance of paying ticket-holders was a significant 29.56 percent.

In terms of ticket sales, the PBA reported gross revenues of over P16 Million or a 7.1 percent increase. Eala said the figure reflected a dramatic 80.3 percent improvement from two years ago.

Eala said the provincial results were even more impressive. In the first six out-of-town games, the average attendance was 5,000 or a 44.94 percent increase from last year. Ticket sales amounted to P6.4 Million or a startling 116.17 percent increase.

"Before the season began, I told the Board my target was at least a 10 percent increase in attendance and ticket sales," said Eala. "We’re above budget in attendance and we’re close to hitting our target in ticket sales. But remember, we’re only in the eliminations of the Fiesta Conference. I expect significant increases in both attendance and ticket sales when the playoffs start."

No doubt, the figures will jack up starting the wildcard qualifying games for the quarterfinals. The qualifiers will feature two pairs of knockout games and two series where one team will enjoy a twice-to-beat advantage. Then the four survivors join two automatic qualifiers–the top two elimination finishers–in the quarters which will welcome two foreign entries from Lebanon and Argentina.

Eala said the survey findings validated the direction that the Board has charted for the league and reestablished the PBA’s position as the country’s No. 1 sports entertainment vehicle both as a live event and a TV staple. The survey looked into the usage, attitude and image angles. There were 800 respondents in the Metro Manila survey.

The survey confirmed that at least five million of Metro Manila’s 12 million population are PBA watchers–that’s a major 40 percent cut. Of the five million, 34 percent are "heavy" viewers, meaning they watch all the games, and 29 percent are "medium" viewers. The survey said the PBA’s audience is mass-based with 75 percent coming from Class B, 61 percent is male and 57 percent in the 13 to 29 age bracket. Among female watchers, 52 percent is in the 20-39 age group.

Additionally, the survey noted that fans would like the PBA to help in sports development. Fans were also high on the PBA’s quality of play, quality of players, the TV coverage, offense-oriented games, rivalry of teams, players’ attitudes on the court and issues such as team management, officiating, venue and prestige of teams and players.

The respondents’ preferred basketball league was undisputedly the PBA with the National Basketball Association next in line. The survey said fans watch the PBA because of the high quality of games and the players are known to be the best and most popular. Ticket prices were noted to be reasonable.

Araneta Coliseum was by far the preferred venue with the PhilSports Arena a far second. On the TV coverage, respondents put a premium on camera angles and clarity of signal. There was widespread positive reaction to ABC Sports’ coverage of the games.

As expected, Barangay Ginebra was voted the fans’ most popular club. San Miguel Beer was No. 2, Alaska No. 3, Purefoods No. 4 and Coca-Cola No. 5.

The survey pointed to Alvin Patrimonio as the most popular cager with Johnny Abarrientos in second spot. Believe it or not, Sen. Robert Jaworski–who hasn’t played since 1998–came in third. The respondents, incidentally, were unaided and not told to choose only active players. Others who figured prominently in the popularity ratings were Danny Ildefonso, Mark Caguioa and Bal David.

The survey presentation took about an hour and a half.

"We took note of the survey findings and we’ll probably commission another survey after the Fiesta Conference," said Eala.

Clearly, the league is on target to achieve its goals this season. Comish and his staff deserve congratulations for putting the PBA back on track.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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