ABS-CBN looking to seal partnership with ABL after pullout from CWBL, says source
Southeast Asia-based ABL is entering its ninth season.

ABS-CBN is bent on airing regional basketball league after all. But unfortunately for the Countrywide Basketball League (CWBL), the giant network is setting its sights beyond the Philippines.

SPIN.ph sources bared that the country’s biggest TV network is in the final stages of sealing a partnership deal with the Asean Basketball League (ABL).

In existence since 2009, the ABL is a regional based league where games are regularly held in different Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore and even Taiwan.

An ABL insider told SPIN.ph that they are now in the final stages of negotiations to make ABS-CBN one of the major coverors of a league that watchers feel is on the cusp of becoming a significant player in Asian basketball.

Interestingly, news of the negotiations between the ABL and ABS-CBN surfaced just days after the Lopez-owned giant network pulled out its support for the long-planned launch of the CWBL.

However, the source insisted ABL only entered the picture after ABS-CBN cut ties with the CWBL.

“We have been talking to them. We did not steal their attention from a local league (CWBL) there, we just want to make it clear,” said the ABL official.

“Our talks only began a few days after their deal with the league bogged down,” he added.

Once a deal is sealed, the ABL is expected to benefit greatly from ABS-CBN’s successful marketing strategies, something that has worked like Midas touch on other tournaments like UAAP basketball, volleyball and cheerdancing competitions, as well as the NCAA, V-League and Azkals’ campaigns.

ABS also stood at the forefront of the popularity of the now-defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA), which even gave the PBA a run for its money in the late 90’s.

MBA’s first-ever commissioner Ramon Fernandez believes in the capabilities of ABS-CBN in promoting a sports league, with its vast experience in creating and building the biggest personalities in the entertainment field and even in the news industry.

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“I think ABS can help, look at how they gave life to the MBA before. Yun ang bumuhay ng MBA nuon,” said Fernandez, a four-time PBA MVP and now a commissioner of the Philippine Sports Commission.

“Kung ila-live nila (ABS-CBN) ang ABL plus bibigyan nila ng suporta sa promotion, lalaki yung ABL. But still, it will boil down to the quality of the players and it should be part of their program,” he added.

Fernandez also shed light on why ABS suddenly turned sour on the MBA, which folded up in its fifth season in 2002.

“Honestly, two years lang ako dun (as MBA commissioner). Yung pagbagsak kasi ng MBA before, hindi lang basta ABS ang may problema run eh. Hindi kasi nila (team owners) sinunod yung aming recommendation. We wanted kasi to put in place the drafting system and salary cap, hindi nila sinunod, so yun nagwala ang gastos, nag-skyrocket ang budget,” he said.

“In the second, third and fourth year, ABS was only able to guarantee 10, 12 and 14 million, respectively, if they followed our recommendation na i-limit lang dun sa budget, hindi malulugi yung mga teams. Minadali rin nila (team owners) nun ang paglaban sa PBA, nag-hire sila ng marquee players na may malaking bayad 500-thousand a month, merun pa nga na 720 thousand nun, tapos subsidized ng ABS yung kalahating bayad, eventually nagsawa rin yung network,” added ‘El Presidente.’

At the moment, SPIN.ph learned that one Philippine team has already committed to take part in the coming ninth season of the ABL — the Alab ng Pilipinas ballclub of player agents Charlie Dy and Dondon Monteverde.

But with ABS-CBN coming in, former Pasig Pirates team manager and now LBC Ronda Pilipinas executive project director Moe Chulani expressed excitement at the possibility of LBC's possible involvement and participation in the ABL.

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“So that made it very interesting, that’s ABS-CBN. Coverage-wise yes (they’re very good), mileage wise for branding, yes (they’re very effective),” said Chulani.

“Remember, LBC started out in basketball, supporting Batangas Blades in the MBA, so we know the network’s capabilities,” added the LBC official who rattled off the company’s ongoing support to sports figures like Manny Pacquiao, Kaya football club and Ronda Pilipinas, the biggest cycling race in the country.

Chulani, though, hopes that ABS has learned from their MBA experience, especially in managing targets.

“The MBA before was mixture of politics, politicians and aggressive businessmen. ABS-CBN’s initial plan was to beat PBL. When they did, they (MBA) looked to beating the PBA na. What’s worse was dati kasi MBA teams are owned by politicians, they only used it for the elections,” he said.

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