PILI, Camarines Sur, Philippines — An event of epic proportions aptly describes the gathering of television’s top three network leaders to discuss the future of media on the third day of the 22nd Philippine Advertising Congress (Ad-Congress22) here Friday.

ABS-CBN Chairman & CEO Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III, GMA Network, Inc. Chairman & CEO Felipe L. Gozon, and ABC-TV5 Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan discussed their individual takes on the future of media and its impact on the advertising industry.

“Digital technology has given consumers more opportunity to control their time, with content made for television now available in at least three screens — television, the Internet and mobile. Primetime has become a moveable feast,” said Gozon.

With content consumption through mobile devices increasing, ABC-TV5 Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan added that, “Eventually SMS will slowly be overtaken by over-the-top messaging on your BBM (BlackBerry Messenger), Android’s Google Chat and iMessage amongst others. When you think about it, this could end roaming and your physical SIM cards.”

Even with advancements in digital technology, all three speakers agreed that television will still remain a critical medium to brand loyalty. “No other medium can be as ubiquitous because no other medium can reach more than 90 percent of target audience,” said Gozon.

The GMA Network boss predicted that the entertainment and media market in the Philippines may even be in for modest growth.

Even with the volume of ad spending on the decline due to economic problems experienced in Europe and the US, Gozon said that “the Philippines has been counted among the more dynamic markets in Southeast Asia where demand for TV remains high.”

From 2006 to 2010, a Nielsen survey revealed that the total ad spend in the Philippines averaged 72 percent, with TV remaining the cheapest form of entertainment for about 94 percent of Filipino households. Demand for television will remain high as driven by the economic status of majority of the population.

“Television will thrive in a digital world,” said Lopez. “The future of media will be shaped by the people’s needs, which at its core is emotional. Technology will change everything except the human nature to crave for affirmation, recognition and connection,” he added.

As far as competition goes, all three networks are investing heavily on enabling technologies.

ABS-CBN is currently undergoing test broadcast for its Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), a service that will give clear digital signals and additional channels to people who cannot afford pay television.

GMA, on the other hand, gives citizen journalists a certain level of participative power in its interactive youscoop.tv where all content is user-generated.

With regard to TV5’s current number three position, Pangilinan said: “We need to spend and invest in the appropriate amounts [to attract advertisers. We intend to be here in the long term and it’s difficult when you have two very strong incumbents. But as a group, we will be an active catalyst in changing the future of Philippine TV. We have to. Otherwise, we would still be number three.”

Published on the front page of The Manila Bulletin, November 18, 2011