PBA strengthens online presence amid pandemic

Photo from PBA

The PBA has seen its online presence grow ever since the pandemic forced fans to find other means to follow their favorite teams and players.

With the league forced to play almost all of its games since the COVID-19 crisis in empty venues, diehard and casual supporters of the league were forced to either watch on television or online, the latter resulting in increased viewerships.

If numbers are to be followed, the PBA is making a killing online, especially after record views were registered in streamed lives on the Facebook page of broadcast partner One Sports during the 2020 Philippine Cup.

Two games stood out, with Calvin Abueva’s return from an indefinite suspension for his then-team Phoenix Super LPG against NLEX garnered 120,000 live views and a match between Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Rain or Shine getting an audience of 180,000.

Ginebra went on to win 2020’s lone PBA conference, but not after seeing its triumph over TNT in the finals being viewed by an average of 1.5 million.

The numbers prompted changes in the online setup, with Smart launching an app called Giga Play in which PBA fans who are subscribers of the digital services provider can watch the games using their data.

Another alternative was through Cignal Play, an app that allows subscribers to see the games online through PBA Rush, a cable channel dedicated to the league.

Facebook livestreams were kept at a minimum, with select games being shown on the pages of Smart Sports and Puso Pilipinas.

The new setup began in the 2021 Philippine Cup, but not without some issues when fans called out the league over the confusion of the broadcast schedules.

A doubleheader in mid-July saw the two matches that were not aired on free TV while the Cignal app crashed during the TNT-Terrafirna, prompting PBA commissioner Willie Marcial to apologize the following day.

Similar issues rarely exist, with the league assuring that TV will remain a key component for the league to assure that there are plenty of avenues available in order for fans to see the games.

PBA players have also found the online world a unique way to show who they are by jumping on the YouTube bandwagon.

Whether it is Magnolia Pambansang Manok’s Paul Lee or Ginebra’s Joe Devance showing a taste of what their daily lives are or the latter’s teammate LA Tenorio having conversations with actors Zanjoe Marudo and Yubs Azarcon, the players have find themselves more ways to show their personalities.

Others continue to keep a low-key approach, opting to post photos or Instagram stories that can generate plenty of reaction.

Some teams like TNT, NLEX, Phoenix, Alaska and Rain or Shine have been regularly creating content on their social media accounts while trying to copy the creativity of their foreign counterparts.