Two of the Philippines’ wealthiest individuals nearly doubled in value from a year ago, as shares of their media conglomerate, GMA Network, have risen roughly 90% since the shutdown of its main rival 12 months ago.
Felipe Gozon, chairman and CEO of GMA, is estimated to be worth $280 million, while Menardo Jimenez, former GMA president and Gozon’s brother-in-law, is estimated to be worth around $200 million.
GMA reported on May 17 that first-quarter revenue increased 55% year over year to 5.5 billion pesos (about $115 million), while net income after tax increased 246 percent to 2 billion pesos.
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GMA became the country’s dominant television network after the government failed to renew ABS-25-year CBN’s free-to-air broadcast license. ABS-CBN ceased operations on May 5, the day after its broadcast license expired.
“We lost one network, and GMA eventually acquired that network’s audience,” says Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist at BDO Unibank in Manila. “Eventually, they obtained the lion’s share.”
The 71-year-old GMA’s “consolidation” of the former ABS-CBN audience is aided by a Philippine “cult of consumption” that exaggerates the network’s historic strength in entertainment programming, according to James Gomez, regional director at Bangkok-based think tank Asia Centre. He adds, “They will be able to draw eyeballs.”
GMA does not appear to have any obvious political leanings, Gomez adds. Meanwhile, ABS-CBN had a spat with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte threatened to shut down ABS-CBN in 2019 after the network failed to air one of his 2016 campaign advertisements. In March of last year, a congressional committee began reviewing ABS-license CBN’s renewal application but was unable to reach a decision before the license expired two months later. In July of last year, the committee denied ABS-application, CBN’s citing a violation of the license’s terms.
Coverage of the 2022 Philippine presidential election, Ravelas says, will expand the audience. Duterte will leave office next year, as the Philippine constitution only allows for one six-year term. Elections are planned for May 2022.