Manny Villar’s Media Conundrum

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Filipino businessman Manny Villar is one consummate businessman. He’s not just intelligent–he’s street-smart. You can’t just fool the guy. He’s one step ahead of everybody.

When the Ayalas were building condominiums for the middle class, Villar was constructing low-cost houses for the lower middle class. He was the one who introduced 20-30 sqm condo units and 40-50 sqm meter houses. Several decades ago, no decent developer would dare mock the people, especially Filipinos, with houses fit for dogs. But, Villar dared and reaped the benefits. He’s now at the top of the leader board of Filipino billionaires.

His luck in business, one friend said, unfortunately, failed to spill over into other fields, like politics. Yes, he became a Legislator, even besting everyone as Speaker and Senate president. Yet, he failed to get the top post losing miserably against the son of a national martyr and spending billions on the failed effort.

Yet, Manny Villar’s business magic once more allowed his fast recovery. Months after that disastrous electoral defeat, Villar recovered his lost billions just by playing the markets. While his voice is as faint as a whisper now, his family replaced him in the spotlight. If you ask me who deserves the presidency now, I will not hesitate to tell you, it’s Manny Villar. But of course, that’s me.

And now, we hear him dipping his fingers again in a field that he’s clueless about–media entertainment. Several friends of mine from the industry blame Villar for the reported loss of ABS-CBN’s franchise. I personally don’t believe it, but when ALL-TV came from its relative obscurity and occupied the channel frequency once owned by the Lopezes, things became clear.

Was the loss of the Lopez franchise the end goal of a revenge campaign of the Villars? Seems likely, as what some media friends think. Villar may have blamed ABS-CBN for his electoral loss in 2010, which nearly destroyed his reputation not just as a politician but as a businessman.

And now this.

What ails Villar? First, he’s going into a business that he knows nothing about or probably has some knowledge shared by friends, like Willie Revillame. Villar already had some dreadful experiences with Revillame that began with that electoral debacle in 2010. ┬áRevillame always boasts that he had some creative contributions to Villar’s defeated election campaign. Isn’t clear Mr. Revillame that your friend lost because of you? That your contributed narrative of telling people that Manny came from a family living in Payatas was ill-received by the electorate because it sounded “pilit” or contrived? Was that loss not a lesson enough for the Villars not to trust Revillame with their media business?

Knowing Manny, I’ll dare say, that his past experience with Revillame is nothing to him. Manny is a loyal friend. This media business must have been emotional to him.

The thing is, the media business is a highly capitalized one. You need to pour in millions before you can even do your marketing. And spending billions requires a lot of thinking, a lot of emotions and a lot of serious commitment.

Revillame, in his woeful speech validating the closure of his show, blames the lack of ALL-TV’s reach. He’s right in saying that part of the success equation is the relative reach of a network’s broadcasting power.

What he’s not telling us is that the Villars already bought ABS-CBN’s towers, and what they lack are relay stations in various parts of the country. This issue is actually solvable. The Villars can just rent these relay stations scattered throughout the country. The question is–why are they not doing it?

Answer: they think that before even investing serious money into this venture, they need to see at least some advertisers in there. And the strategy that they employed? Showbiz power.

Another issue that continues to baffle the minds of media observers is why Manny Villar believed in Revillame’s thesis that showbiz attracts viewers. If that is the case, then TMZ in the United States would have been the top show there.

Information is what glues people on the telly. People are thirsty for information after two years of being cooped up during the pandemic years. They want to see what’s going on in the world.

People don’t want to see the tired antics of somebody engaged in poverty porn every single day. People don’t want to even see the shadow of Toni Gonzaga who used Bible verses to cloak her true persona. And who’s entertained with these mom shies whose kids are not exactly your preferred kind of young folks?

Admit it–ALLTV is doomed from the very beginning. Why? Because the purpose of its existence is, admittedly, revenge. Revillame wants to prove that he’s genius while probably, Manny wants to prove that he’s as savvy as the Lopezes when it comes to the entertainment business. Sadly, they realized the futility and stupidity of their decisions very late in the game, after nearly losing a billion pesos before throwing in the towel.

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