It was a glorious reintroduction.
When it was launched on November 17, 2018, ABSCBN’s streaming service iWant swiftly racked up 2 million mobile app downloads on the back of the teaser of its first release, “Glorious.”
The trailer of the Angel Aquino-Tony Labrusca starrer reportedly picked up 1 million views in three hours, boding well for the fortunes of the retooled service.
Formerly known as iWantv, the new iteration has been beefed up with more than 95 thousand hours of movies, TV shows, music, and sports and other live events for livestreaming by users in the Philippines.
The iWant catalogue has been expanded with a section devoted solely to originals—a treasure trove of visual treats that ABS-CBN plans to infuse with at least 30 new titles every year from Star Cinema, ABSCBN TV Production and the iWant team.
iWant also has the most extensive collection of Filipino movie titles—1,500 as of last count—in addition to material amassed over 65 years of ABSCBN’s existence.
According to iWant head Elaine Uy-Casipit, the overarching challenge for the team, as laid down by ABS-CBN president Carlo L. Katigbak, was to “disrupt television” by drawing TV viewers to iWant.
iWant is bent on courting and being relevant to a younger audience, specifically the 18- to 26-year-old demographic, in addition to its core, older market.
“We’re happy to see the analytics that we’re reaching them—but we also have viewers as old as 65—because of the variety of content, with a conscious effort to shift to edgier storytelling,” Casipit says, adding that the key is to “innovate our content and the experience where we deliver the content.”
Notes Ginny Monteaguado-Ocampo, iWant content management head: “It’s a major culture change, but you get to see the values of the team. The TV Production people, the business unit heads, Tita Cory (Vidanes, COO-Broadcast) are all working together to help build iWant.”
That iWant is also working with external content creators and producers, filmmakers and writers is a plus as it means fresh perspectives for the team.
“We get to be exposed to new types of storytelling, different ways of producing content, different ways of doing things, even writing, producing and programming,” enthuses Ocampo.
Ocampo’s GMO Entertainment Unit, whose recent credits include “The Greatest Love” and “Playhouse, is perhaps best known for the groundbreaking teleserye “Be Careful with My Heart.”
Nowadays, some content is even released on iWant ahead of TV, a practice that was never done before, adds Casipit.
“Because of the culture change, everybody from the different lines of business is thinking how they can contribute more to iWant,” shares Richard Reynante, OTT Programming and Content Development head. “Our programming now is very, very robust compared to how it was before.”
Reynante, among other things, is currently working on gathering the works of the country’s leading actors on iWant.
“We’re also targeting those with fanbases. For example, we put all of the Kathniel movies and series on iWant. If you’re a Kathniel fan, you have a destination. We’re doing that across all of the other celebrities.”
So how does one get one’s hands on the vast iWant library that promises to “satisfy your entertainment cravings whenever, wherever”? Users simply need to download iWant or log on to the website (iwant.ph) and register before selecting their preferred plan.
Andrew Favis, head of Product Innovations-One OTT, says iWant currently offers three tiers: free, whose content may be accessed immediately upon signup; premium, which is available for one-day, seven-day or 30-day subscriptions; and pay-per-view.
“Subscribers can pay through credit card or their Globe or Smart number for their subscription,” Favis notes.
iWant also looks to grow PPV by releasing movies that have a shorter window from theaters and more originals on the service, citing the example of “Glorious” and its 8.3 million views in over 24 hours since the video was first published.
“There’s a big demand in terms of original content,” Favis asserts.
Boost from ‘Be Careful’
iWant was initially called iWantv, a catch-up service available exclusively to SKYcable subscribers when it was introduced in 2010.
“If you’re a SKY subscriber, you go to iWantv and just catch up if you missed the content,” says Casipit.
In 2012, the service got a boost from an unexpected source.
“Be Careful with My Heart” starring Jodi Sta. Maria and Richard Yap clicked due to the pair’s chemistry. Soon enough, ABSCBN had a new hit on its hands. The frenzy was such that viewers, many of whom would be at work when the series aired during the late-morning time slot, scoured the net to look for recaps or highlights of the day’s episode.
“It was actually ‘Be Careful’ that introduced iWantv to the market,” says Casipit.
Recalls Reynante: “Prior to that, our idea of video on demand was limited to YouTube. When ‘Be Careful’ became a hit, people would look for it because we did not upload full episodes on YouTube. So, everybody went to iWantv.”
Today’s “Be Careful with My Heart” might well be “Halik.” The “small” soap attracted a lot of social media buzz several months into its run and drove viewers to iWant in an echo of the “Be Careful with My Heart” experience.
“Before, our fear was that if a show became popular on iWantv—back when it was still known as iWantv—no one was going to watch it on TV,” Reynante reveals. “The producers also thought no one was going to watch shows on TV if iWantv clicked.”
“Halik” proved otherwise by becoming a hit both on TV and on iWant—the social media conversations pushed people who did not catch the TV airing to look for the episode on iWant, while others enjoyed it enough to go for a repeat viewing.
Favis observes on the changes and adjustments made by iWant and ABS-CBN through the years: “A big chunk of the population are millennials who don’t view TV anymore. We transitioned our platforms to meet the needs of the consumers and perform our mission to be in the service of the Filipino. We adjust to whatever our customers need.”