SHINJUKU – The Philippine Basketball Association’s string of record-breaking seasons at the box office have come to an end on the very same year it turned 40.
On Monday, league officials were humble enough to admit that both gate attendance and receipts went down in the just-concluded season in a startling development that marked the final year in office of Chito Salud as commissioner.
Salud, now PBA president and CEO, made the report before the entire league board on the first day of its annual planning session at the Tokyo Hilton here.
Overall, Salud stressed the 40th season was still a hike in income when sales of PBA Properties and sponsorship revenues are thrown in.
“There was an overall growth of three percent, and the sponsorship aspect of the league increased,” he said.
“But the mixed of the growth is not good,” he added. “The core business of the PBA which is really gate attendance and gate receipts are down.”
Salud, who faced media men along with new commissioner Chito Narvasa and chairman Robert Non of San Miguel, would rather not cite figures other than mention the fraction lost compared to last season.
“In terms of gate receipts, we’re down18 percent compared to last year and in terms of gate attendance we’re down 10 percent compared to last year,” he said.
Salud and his team said they are looking at six possible aspects on why the sudden dip in numbers after enjoying banner seasons the past few years.
He mentioned the need of the two expansion franchises in Blackwater and Mahindra to be more competitive after both teams expectedly failed to make the playoffs of all three conferences right on their maiden season.
Likewise, Salud said the league will have to do away playing in smaller venues outside of Smart Araneta Coliseum or the Mall of Asia Arena since ‘capacity and convenience of those venues have an impact on gate attendance.’
Early finishes in the playoffs series especially in the semifinals of all three conferences could have also factored, particularly during the season-ending Governors Cup where Alaska swept Star (semis) and San Miguel made short work of Rain or Shine (3-1), not to mention the Beermen’s four-game sweep of the finals against the Aces.
Another issue worth looking at is the extra game day – played every Tuesday - introduced by the league last season.
“We want to study the impact of that extra game day a week because we do understand that our industry is market driven and there could be some budget constraints involved with respect to our fans,” Salud pointed out.
The 45-minute break in between the 4:15 p.m. curtain raiser and the 7:15 p.m. game to give way to the airing of primetime newscast, was also cited, along with the short breaks in between conferences as the league compressed its schedule to give way to the training and preparation of Gilas Pilipinas.
“Normal breaks between conferences in the past before our total involvement with the national team is between 15 to 20 days,” said Salud. “This season we averaged in between conference break of maybe four days, so there could be an element of ‘sawa’ and fatigue on the part of our fans.”
Salud said his team will try to find a way to address the situation once they report about the matter in the next board meeting.