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Cinema in the advent of livestream and VOD entertainment

Today, in this fast-paced digital age, people can already binge-watch their favorite series and films in just one click and at their most convenient time. There is no need to jump into the traffic and pay hundreds to watch recently released films or to catch the airing time of tv shows. 

Cinema in the advent of livestream and VOD entertainment
From left: Unitel Production and Straightshooters Media Inc. CEO and President Madonna Tarrayo, Cignal TV Chief Marketing Officer Guido Zaballero, ABS-CBN iWant Content Head Ginny Ocampo, ABS-CBN iWant Digital Content Publishing Head Richard Reynante, and director and De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) Digital Filmmaking (DFilm) Chairperson Jose Javier Reyes
The continuous evolution of the digital scene has indeed transformed the lifestyle of the audience, which poses a question to the entertainment industry: Are television viewing and movie-going really dying? 

In a recent forum, key people behind the country’s leading livestreaming brands speak on the issue before a crowd of aspiring filmmakers held at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) School of Design and Arts (SDA) Cinema.

“Livestreaming is different from streaming,” ABS-CBN iWant Digital Content Publishing Head Richard Reynante clarified. “Livestreaming is when you watch a live program from one platform that crosses to the digital platform while streaming per se is video on demand or VODs—shows you consume at your own time.”

He also shared how ABS-CBN’s iWant originally launched as a site that replays the network’s shows, which can easily be accessed without the need for subscription. “However, the market is growing and most of the content that viewers look for are not only catch-ups – they started to look for originals,” he admitted. 

When iWant TV replayed ABS-CBN’s series Be Careful With My Heart, which aired for two years on broadcast at the noon timeslot when most are in school or at work, the team was surprised of the viewership that it received online. They realized that there is really a market for the digital platform. 

“What we got from Be Careful With My Heart was that we were actually answering a need. In broadcast viewing, the audience follows a specific time while on VOD, they can watch anytime and anywhere,” beamed ABS-CBN iWant Content Head Ginny Ocampo

From then on, iWant TV evolved into iWant and expanded its library. Customers now have options between free viewing but with advertisements, advertisement-free viewing but with a cost, or a pay-per-view set-up for new films. 

Cignal TV Chief Marketing Officer Guido Zaballero shared that despite the fact that nobody really knows exactly how well the streaming entertainment will do and how much money it will make, it is best to invest in originals and partner with local writers, directors, and producers, which Cignal Play is now exploring.

Considering that the digital entertainment is at its infancy, ABS-CBN’s Ocampo confessed they continue to explore its contents. “Whatever genre it is as long as the deep characterization is present, then it is something that is relatable to the audience,” she noted. Ocampo also added that since the platforms are free from Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), it provides as a venue for the execution of more experimental productions. 

The birth of streaming and livestreaming was instantly associated to the death of television. 

We thought that it is going to drive eyeballs out of the television, but it did not. TV still retained its high viewership. ” ABS-CBN’s Reynante beamed. “The ratings in digital is so robust and I think it is because we were able to capture the viewers who were not watching TV anymore, but Filipinos are data sensitive. Perhaps there is a part of the crowd that uses data to watch online but the rest of the country watches TV.”

Cignal TV’s Zaballero trusts that there is a lot of space to grow for digital. “The viewing public would always love to consume something that is free—that’s a given. However, in terms of telecommunications infrastructure, all these broadband businesses have not and will have a difficult time to reach all of the islands in the Philippines.” 

“It really has a limit because if you do not have a broadband, you have to access through your phone and data is expensive and that is why we believe that there still has to be a market for linear television,” he added. 

While television continues to remain afloat, it seems the cinema projects into a downward spiral that is still expected to get worse in the coming years. The ease of access, cheaper cost, and various selections that the digital space provides pose a threat to physical theaters.

The theater is something that offers an experiential viewing and Reynante thinks that the challenge for the cinema is for that experience to change. 

“It has got to change in form and services to be able to keep up. Some malls started to offer 4D cinemas; and yes, that is something that livestreaming can never replicate, but it is also very pricey,” he noted. 

The panel states that the behavior of the consumers is based on the economics of entertainment. “We still believe that cinema will not die, it will just co-exist. We have to remember that cinema is technology-bound and it is bound to evolve,” Reynante reiterated. 

The forum was moderated by director and Digital Filmmaking (DFilm) Chairperson Jose Javier Reyes and Unitel Production and Straightshooters Media Inc. CEO and President Madonna Tarrayo.

Topics: Films , Cinema Richard Reynante , Jose Javier Reyes , Madonna Tarrayo , Guido Zaballero , Ginny Ocampo
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