Philippine media giant ABS-CBN Corp is returning to free-to-air television in Metro Manila and nearby provinces after sealing an alliance with the TV network of Eddie Villanueva, the influential evangelist and founder of Jesus is Lord Church.
ABS-CBN will begin airing entertainment programmes and movies starting October 10 on the newly rebranded “A2Z” — previously known as Zoe TV Channel 11 — following an agreement to lease airtime from Villanueva’s Zoe Broadcasting Network Inc, both companies announced on Tuesday.
The deal ends months of speculation on how ABS-CBN will revive its core television business after the Duterte administration followed through with previous threats and ordered the company to shut down its free television and radio broadcasts on May 5 — a day after its 25-year franchise expired.
Members of the House of Representatives allied with President Rodrigo Duterte eventually denied ABS-CBN’s bid for a new franchise on July 10, forcing the company to retrench thousands of employees and significantly scale back business operations.
The shutdown affected tens of millions of viewers and listeners across the country.
The agreement with Zoe Broadcasting allows ABS-CBN a path to recapture some viewers on free TV after a five-month absence. Following the shutdown of broadcasts, ABS-CBN was limited to its online and pay TV platforms.
“ABS-CBN and Zoe are committed to work together to provide entertainment, public service programmes, and educational content to the public,” ABS-CBN said in its statement.
On its website, Zoe Broadcasting was described as a “Christian, family-oriented and wholesome television and radio broadcasting” company operating over the past two decades.
Its franchise covers AM radio in Calamba, VFH Channel 11 in Mega Manila and UHF TV channels 33 in Mega Manila and Puerto Princesa City in Palawan.
ABS-CBN rival GMA Network had previously aired GMA News TV’s analog signal on Channel 11 until their blocktime deal expired on June 5, 2019.
A Zoe Broadcasting spokesperson said the rebranding to A2Z only covered Zoe TV Channel 11.
Zoe Broadcasting said the channel would “serve viewers with uplifting and inspiring shows of life, love and hope, educational programmes, local and foreign movies”.
PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK