P5-B loss leads to decision to pull plug on CNN PH | Inquirer News

P5-B loss leads to decision to pull plug on CNN PH

By: - Business Features Editor / @philbizwatcher
/ 05:35 AM January 28, 2024

CHALLENGING CONDITIONS | The CNN Philippines headquarters in Mandaluyong City. The shutdown of the network is expected to be formally announced to its employees on Monday, Jan. 29, 2024.

CHALLENGING CONDITIONS | The CNN Philippines headquarters in Mandaluyong City. The shutdown of the network is expected to be formally announced to its employees on Monday, Jan. 29, 2024. (Photo by RICHARD A. REYES / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — CNN Philippines is going off the air nearly nine years after heating up local broadcasting competition, as its franchise holder decided to plug financial losses that have ballooned to more than P5 billion.

The shutdown of the television network, which will affect around 300 employees, will be formally announced on Monday, a top CNN Philippines official confirmed to the Inquirer on Friday night.


The painstaking decision to give up the costly CNN license had been finalized in December last year, but owner and operator Nine Media Corp., controlled by the Cabangon family, deferred promulgation until after the Yuletide holidays.


“We didn’t want to ruin our employees’ Christmas,” said the official, who declined to be named, adding that CNN Philippines president Benjie Ramos would be the one to make the official announcement.


Since airing in 2015, CNN franchise fees alone have cost Nine Media around P55 million to P60 million a year, which advertising revenues could not cover especially amid declining free TV viewership, the official explained.

Even during the election season — which happens every three years in the Philippines and is typically a peak revenue period for media advertising buying — CNN was not able to shore up revenues, said another industry source privy to its operations.

“Palaging T.Y.-T.Y. na lang (We often only get ‘thank you’),” the source noted, implying that some political advertisers never paid for air time, every minute of which is too valuable for any broadcasting company, given that it is a finite resource.

The official said, “It’s very challenging. It’s a losing proposition, so why pursue it?”

RPN 9’s frequency

CNN Philippines has been using RPN 9’s free TV frequency since its launch in March 2015.


With this imminent shutdown, the frequency will revert to government control.

“RPN 9 will still be there. Whoever wants to get the franchise is free to get it,” the official said.

Moving forward, the official said the investor group would focus on Aliw Channel 23, a small network running on UHF Channel 23.

“We just got the frequency but the content is more for radio,” the official said.

The source said the investor group had shouldered the losses for as long as it could for the sake of the employees.

Their roster includes award-winning broadcaster Rico Hizon, who was heartbroken when informed about the forthcoming shutdown, according to the official.

“Naiyak siya (He broke into tears),” the official said.

Hizon had established a stellar career overseas as anchor for CNBC Asia, then BBC World, before returning home to topbill CNN Philippines, thus raising the profile of the fledgling network.

TV viewership

Creating a homegrown newsroom affiliated with a global brand was fashionable in 2015, the same year when tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan-led TV5 and Bloomberg L.P. teamed up to launch Bloomberg TV.

High license fees also figured in the shutdown of this network in 2018, underscoring the challenging conditions faced by startup broadcast competitors despite their affiliation with well-established international media brands.

In the case of CNN Philippines, the official admitted that it was very hard to compete with local free TV networks. For a long time, free TV was ruled by the ABS-CBN and GMA 7 duopoly, until the former lost its franchise renewal bid.

Even across the globe, the official noted that free TV viewership had been declining in the age of social media and digital streaming.

“Do you still watch TV?” the official asked.

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As accumulated losses from inception hit P5 billion in a capital-intensive industry marked by cutthroat competition, the official said it was time to let go.

TAGS: CNN Philippines, Journalism

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