Weighing in on GMA Network’s triumphs and upcoming projects

Bea Alonzo

As mentioned in our article yesterday about GMA Network’s Thanksgiving Gala, there were as many of its stars as its movers and shakers. Adding superstar luster to the party at Shangri-La The Fort were “new recruits” Bea Alonzo and erstwhile screen partner John Lloyd Cruz.

So, what can we expect from the company in the coming seasons?

To tap into the evening’s celebratory mood, we asked some top executives from different departments to take stock of the network’s triumphs over the past 72 years as they move forward with plans and innovations to further future-proof GMA’s successful brand.

Indeed, the upcoming seasons look exciting for drama aficionados raring for new concepts and story ideas. Lilybeth G. Rasonable, senior vice president for Entertainment Group, told us that GMA’s Drama Department has always pushed the boundaries of the teleserye format and continues to do so.

“Our creative culture, allowing our talents to play their strengths and sensibilities, gives the network an edge in innovation,” she pointed out. “We have in our future slate a show that puts a spin on the literary treasures of Jose Rizal, ‘Noli Me Tangere’ and ‘El Filibusterismo.’ There’s a new show exploring the world of competitive figure skating. We’re also mounting a high-concept time-loop material. After the success of our first ‘suspenserye,’ we have in development a bigger show in the same genre.

“While all of the aforementioned projects are original concepts from GMA’s homegrown creatives, we continue to seek out popular IP’s for Philippine adaptation. Part of our upcoming lineup are adapted productions, like ‘Start Up Philippines’ and ‘Luv Is,’ which features well-loved Wattpad titles.

International coproduction

“There’s also the international coproduction between GMA and Seoul Broadcasting System, which is the Philippine adaptation of the Korean reality game show, ‘Running Man,’ coming this September. Not only has the program’s entire season been shot in South Korea, but it is the first time for GMA to collaborate with a Korean production team to create and produce a program. With the exchange of knowledge and experience for both networks, new approaches in TV production can be adopted not only for ‘Running Man,’ but for other future productions as well.”

Gigi Santiago-Lara (right) with (from left) John Lloyd Cruz, Joey Abacan and Alden Richards

The network creates experiences that keep viewers’ needs and circumstances in mind, Lilibeth stressed. “As far as the pandemic is concerned, we aren’t out of the woods yet. So we try to give viewers a sense of hope and normalcy in the programs we create. We try to help them through the ‘new normal’ we all must live with.

“For example, in our newest daily variety game program, ‘Tiktoclock,’ we aim to bring back the feeling of barkadahan and a sense of community with Kuya Kim Atienza, Pokwang and Rabiya Mateo. The same is true with our weekend programs, ‘All-Out Sundays’ and ‘Sarap ‘Di Ba,’ where we promote camaraderie, positivity and family. In ‘Farm to Table,’ we show how food can be a reflection of alternative lifestyles that are viable, educational and self-sustaining.

“For almost three years since the start of the pandemic, we have been operating within a box; a controlled environment where we have struggled to adjust and rely on available resources to be able to continue or approximate the same standards of excellence in entertainment that have been a great part of GMA’s history for the last 72 years. As we slowly get out of that box, we are better equipped to meet the challenges before us.

“Our shows continue to reach out to Filipinos everywhere through GMA Pinoy TV. We’re doing the same with Regional TV. Our shows are going to reflect trends and respond to audience clamor for truly entertaining shows that are wholesome and meaningful.”

Helping execute the aforesaid ideas are stars and personalities that are as exciting as they are credible. This is where talent development becomes crucial.

Character development

What sort of “stars” does the company wish to develop in the coming years?

As noted by Gigi Santiago-Lara, senior assistant vice president for alternative productions, in yesterday’s article, a person’s character is just as significant as his looks or talent. “We wish to develop stars who are not only good-looking or talented. Equally important is the development of their mindset to have a strong work ethic and a strong sense of professionalism, as well as the willingness to ‘pay it forward’ to younger artists.

“We’re fortunate for having established artists who are willing to share their insights and experiences and how much they value the support they’re getting from their fans, colleagues and home network.”

When we asked who she considers their biggest success stories, Gigi said, “We consider many of our artists success stories. Artists such as Alden Richards, Julie Anne San Jose, Barbie Forteza, Sanya Lopez, Gabbi Garcia, Bianca Umali, Ruru Madrid, Miguel Tanfelix and Ken Chan headline many of the network’s major projects.

“We also have established artists who have grown with Sparkle through the years, such as Heart Evangelista, Rayver Cruz, Kylie Padilla, Andrea Torres, Max Collins, Rocco Nacino, Mark Herras and Benjamin Alves.”

On what she thought were the network’s biggest strengths, Angel Javier Cruz, VP for corporate affairs and communications, said: “Its strengths are crystallized in its mission, culture and leadership. Integrity is in our DNA. Our slogan, ‘Walang Kinikilingan, Walang Pinoprotektahan, Walang Kasinungalingan. Serbisyong Totoo Lamang,’ isn’t just something our news anchors deliver on air, it’s part of our moral fabric. It permeates the stories we do, the decisions we make, and the advocacies we champion.”

For Angel, the company’s vision and values have also helped shape its culture. “When you step into GMA, walk into the studios, or meet a Kapuso on Zoom, you can sense a culture of harmony and camaraderie,” she explained. “We are as diverse as we are unique—and yet, we all work collaboratively. Another quiet strength of the network is leadership by example.

“Turning talents into stars used to be a challenge seen by many in the past. But with Sparkle’s birth comes a vibrant group of artists, backed by the masters of stardom. In the coming years, they’re poised to become the biggest and brightest stars in the show biz galaxy.”

Angel Javier Cruz (right) with Mark Reyes V, Viva Artists Agency’s Veronique del Rosario- Corpus, Kit Villanueva-Zapata and Dominic Zapata

Angel Javier Cruz (right) with Mark Reyes V, Viva Artists Agency’s Veronique del Rosario-
Corpus, Kit Villanueva-Zapata and Dominic Zapata

You can’t talk about the company’s strengths without also singling out GMA’s sturdy and reliable News and Public Affairs team.

“GMA News and Public Affairs is known for its credibility,” said Marissa L. Flores, consultant for GMA News and Public Affairs group, when asked what she thought sets it apart from others. “Its trusted team of anchors, reporters and producers take the news organization’s slogan to heart by ensuring its news stories are fair, accurate and unbiased.

“It’s also known for the diversity of programs that deliver information relevant to our audiences—from newscasts led by the flagship program ‘24 Oras’ and ‘Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho’ (KMJS) to a whole portfolio of documentaries, talk shows, magazine programs and even scripted anthologies and drama series (like ‘Lolong’), all designed to engage and inform audiences. It has been a consistent innovator in the digital sphere.”

With streaming and new media getting stronger and more visible than ever before, how will the network keep itself relevant and competitive in the next decade or so?

TV still preferred

“We do not see television losing influence anytime soon,” Marissa quipped. “‘24 Oras’ streams every night on whatever platform you choose—on the GMA News Online website, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and even TikTok. Despite that, data shows that people would still watch it on TV if it’s available.

“But it goes beyond news. One of the most popular TV shows in the country, KMJS, is also the most popular on Facebook, with 28 million followers.

Lilibeth G.  Rasonable  (right) with  “Couple of the  Night” Dingdong Dantes  and Marian Rivera

Lilibeth G. Rasonable (right) with “Couple of the Night” Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera

“With all the issues surrounding online misinformation, we see the need to make sure that Filipinos here and around the world are able to access news and information they can trust. Our newscasts are streamed live for Philippine viewers, while Filipinos abroad can still catch their Express versions on our website and YouTube channel.

“And we continue to work at it. We have a Digital Video Laboratory that constantly works on new formats for younger viewers. We embrace new platforms to reach them. The medium may change, but our team is committed to keeping our viewers’ trust with quality journalism.” INQ

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