Cindy de Leon, head of Jeepney TV and of the ABS CBN Content Management Group, started out as a junior copywriter of the ABS-CBN Merchandising Department when the company reopened after the Edsa Revolution in 1986. A magna cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Business Administration, De Leon had no second thoughts moving from an ad agency to the network on the invitation of a former coworker.
There were only 16 people when she started conceptualizing, writing and producing TV, radio and print promotional materials for ABS-CBN programs. When she voluntarily retired in 2005 to focus on parenting duties, she had risen to the role of vice president of the Creative Communications Management (CCM) division with a staff of 75. Prior to the ABS-CBN shutdown, CCM was servicing all ABS-CBN internal platforms and grew to almost 10 times of the original Merchandising staff under her successor Robert Labayen.
“I chose motherhood over career with not a tinge of regret to this day,” De Leon says.
But the call of content programming came at the right time. In 2012, then ABS-CBN president Charo Santos-Concio asked her to head a new cable channel, Jeepney TV, which would run ABS-CBN archival content. Santos-Concio believed that De Leon could “program the channel with (her) eyes closed” having herself promoted the programs during her time at CCM.
Jeepney TV is now one of the company’s strongest brands, achieving breakthroughs in the digital space with more than five million followers on Facebook and over a million subscribers on YouTube. Now concurrent head of the Content Management Group, De Leon handles another team which is in charge of the “windowing and trafficking of ABS-CBN content across all its platforms.”
For his part, FYE Channel head Mark Yambot is thriving in the collaborative environment that has allowed him and his team to aggregate content from various ABS-CBN units. Aside from conceptualizing its own original content, FYE draws on the wealth of material available from Jeepney TV, Cinema One, Metro, MYX, Rise, MOR, DZMM, Cinemo, and Integrated News and Current Affairs, among several other ABS-CBN brands and divisions.
Yambot, who also holds a business degree from UP and a Master in Business Management from AIM, had headed Print Publishing and Ide8 for ABS CBN subsidiary Creative Programs Inc. This was before the pandemic and before ABS-CBN lost its broadcast franchise.
“So much has changed in the course of a year. COVID affected the economy, especially retail-dependent businesses like ours,” he says.
As ABS-CBN Books discontinued consignment selling, its pivot to digital brought on new opportunities, including the chance to engage its young millennial readers in a totally different way, as their Kumu experience has shown.
“Just like with Books, in Kumu we create content that young people should be willing to pay for in a highly crowded and contested space. But unlike with books, in livestreaming we only have a few seconds to get the attention of our audience and then sustain that interest every minute. On top of that, our content should be relevant, our streamers should also be authentic and likable.
“The unique needs of the audience and capabilities of the Kumu platform pushed us to speed up the way we develop, improve or cancel shows while exploring new models to partner whether it be with the Kumu team, other internal groups, and finally with content creators or talents. We are always having to learn new things in the course of unlearning others,” says Yambot. “Our Kumu channels have grown to have over 300 streams a month, including 44 regular weekly shows, so we are always watching, trying to understand the audience and improve the experience.”
De Leon muses: “The pandemic and the ABS-CBN shutdown totally changed the way we do things. But I should say the difficulty and challenges of coping with these brought out the best in me and my team. Kudos to my team as we were able to achieve these within an almost 100% work-from-home setup, made possible by available technology such as Zoom, Viber and Messenger and the technical support provided by ABS-CBN. Constant communication, everyone’s commitment and dedication, staying focused on our goals as a team and having the grit and resolve to rise above the challenges on hand have propelled us to thrive amidst adversity.”
Yambot chimes in: “I totally agree with Cindy. That we have come this far shows the can-do attitude and team spirit in CPI and across ABS-CBN as a whole. Even with all the limitations we will do our part and fight alongside the rest of the network to continue serving our audiences with quality content. It is a privilege for us to be in a position to do this, and every day we want to prove worthy of it.”
De Leon shares with LopezLink readers: “Keep the faith and be grateful for each waking day. The past year was probably the most turbulent I’ve endured both work-wise and on the personal level. And I must admit, I’ve never prayed as much and as hard in my life. Apart from having our share of numerous health scares, we lost my mother-inlaw, my sister-in-law and many other relatives and friends. I terribly miss many Kapamilyas who were separated from ABS CBN because of the shutdown and the daily office grind and interaction. Just like many working mothers out there, I feel the pressure of the blurred lines between managing work and home. But despite everything, I have so much to be thankful for. In the darkest of moments, it’s faith that will keep you afloat. And where there’s faith, hope follows. And where there’s hope, there’s always a reason to live and fight for another day.” (Story/Photos by: Carla Paras-Sison)