Creative Programs Inc.’s (CPI) big push into Kumu began with an email that former ABS-CBN business development and CPI head Paolo Pineda sent to Mark Yambot on June 26, a Friday.
The following week, Yambot and his team met with executives of the Filipino livestreaming service, including cofounders Roland Ros, Angelo Mendez and Rexy Dorado.
“We were encouraged by the success of TVDG’s StarHunt and MNL48 in Kumu so we wanted to explore how CPI’s brands could have a similar impact,” Yambot recounts.
By Saturday, July 4, they had put together FYE Channel and rolled out their first livestream, Jeepney TV’s “Love Team Bahay,” an online fan meet/ fundraiser with Kathryn Bernardo, Daniel Padilla, MayMay Entrata, Edward Barber, Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil.
In all, the team was able to get FYE Channel—CPI’s first home on Kumu—off the ground in about six working days.
“By the end of July 2020, we had launched 15 regular shows and run over 40 streams from Metro, Cinema One, Jeepney TV, ABS-CBN Books, MYX, ANCX, MOR and, soon after, Rise Artists Studio and Fr. Tito Caluag. By August we were already doing 130 streams a month,” narrates Yambot, who now heads FYE Channel.
The next three months saw the relaunch of the stand-alone MYX channel and Jeepney TV’s launch of “Game KNB?” on Kumu, as well as the branded Kumu spotlight channel called SeenZone.
These four accounts have amassed more than 1 million followers on the back of 70 shows from a variety of genres that CPI has introduced on Kumu so far. Indeed, Kapamilya viewers are more spoilt for choice than ever.
According to operations head Sharleen Soon, FYE has largely maintained its original lineup of programs from a year ago.
“We still have ‘Bawal MaStress Drilon’ with Ces Drilon, ‘Hanz Swerte! Hanz Saya!’ with Master Hanz, ‘PopCinema’ with Bianca Gonzalez and MJ Felipe, ‘Metro Chats’ with the Metro editorial team, ‘MYX Fullscreen’ and ‘Puwestuhan,’ ‘We Rise Together’ and ‘Rise Here Right Now’ from Rise Artists Studio and Fr. Tito’s ‘Kumunity Mass’ and ‘Kumustahan,’” Soon notes.
New channel SeenZone, on the other hand, is going strong.
“In just six months we were able to reach 2 million views, 29 million likes and 142,500 followers,” channel head Kristine Hernandez says of the platform headlined by livestreamers from Star Magic.
Meanwhile, Rise Artists Studio likes to mix things up by integrating new segments on its program “We Rise Together” to sustain viewer interest and foster competition, states Mico del Rosario.
Rise, ABS-CBN Films’ talent management arm, recently introduced a group of rising young actors and actresses that it considers primed for stardom.
“Rise talents regularly face off in a segment called ‘G4G.’ Our campaigns for this segment enable us to recognize the votes coming in from Kumu, therefore giving weight to the platform’s voting voice,” Del Rosario says.
Geolette Esguerra, Metro. Style chief editor, notes that while Metro Channel has stuck with its program lineup, the team does not hesitate to tweak certain shows when metrics and performance call for it.
“We discovered that our banner show, ‘Metro Chats,’ is most effective when it runs longer than the original 45 minutes and with multiple guests. Now it often runs for 1.5 to two hours with at least two guests per episode,” Esguerra notes. “The fashion and beauty-centric shows, ‘Style Me Now’ and ‘Make Me Over,’ have been revamped to take into account the changing technology and the behavior and needs of the market.”
Cinema One constantly discovers new features and topics to explore, and new ways to engage the audience, states Marie Francia. The channel’s team lead for digital cites two of their must-watch shows on Kumu.
“We have ‘PopCinema’ for a weekly dose of fun and games with the hottest celebrities and icons and ‘The Best Talk’ hosted by Boy Abunda. In true Boy Abunda fashion, celebrity interviews for ‘The Best Talk’ mean commentaries and discovering new angles to the story. But since Kumu is a hip platform, Tito Boy has found a way to connect with the audience by showing his quirky and upbeat personality,” Francia adds.
For Karen Namora, current affairs executive producer, their flagship program “KaReriN Natin ‘Yan: Overseas Filipino Winners” remains a work in progress.
The live weekly program hosted by Karen Davila premiered in November 2020 and is now on its second season.
“We have to keep adjusting the format and content to strike that balance of being informative but not heavy, entertaining but not flippant. You just can’t set a template for this program because our digital audience would always demand something new, fresh and engaging,” she reports.
TeleRadyo shows on Kumu have also proven their longevity as the lineup remains the same: “Kumunsulta with Doc Luisa and Coach Harris,” “Tita Talk” and “Pinoy Vibes” with the psychic Stargazer have had at least 10 episodes each, while “Kumu Star Ka!” has had over 30.
DZMM TeleRadyo head Marah Capuyan however admits that TeleRadyo is still on a learning curve as they familiarize themselves with Kumu’s Gen Z core audience.
“This group is totally different from the existing market of our legacy platforms of radio and TV, but we remain focused on accomplishing our mission of being ‘Una Sa Public Service.’ We beefed up our content and interjected fun, exciting and rewarding games to reciprocate the generosity of our viewers who have been sending virtual gifts to our anchors.”
The CPI pivot to digital via Kumu proved to be trickier for “Game KNB?,” the wildly successful homegrown ABS-CBN program that first aired in 2001.
Says Jeepney TV head Cindy de Leon: “Ultimately, we were able to mount an interactive format where viewers are able to participate in the show and win prizes via Kumu while they watch the show on the Jeepney TV cable channel—the first of its kind in the world, we were told.”
According to De Leon, when a viewer watches the program on cable, he sees the traditional format which has commercial gaps. However, when watching it on Kumu, the viewer will see host Robi Domingo continuing to engage with “kumunizens” when the program goes on break.
The team eventually brought the show to a worldwide audience via TFC IPTV and myxtv Global, and Jeepney TV’s Facebook Live. Today, there are at least 10,000 unique viewers of “Game KNB?” every day on Kumu. It’s also one of CPI’s top-rating shows on cable. The GKNB Channel which carries “Game KNB?” has close to 330,000 followers from the time it launched in October.
“Our brand’s growth in digital, which is widely regarded to have younger consumers, proved that it is in the way that content is presented that draws and engages the audience, on whatever platform they may be,” Katia Pla, Jeepney TV brand head, asserts.
Jingky Soriano, brand head of Cinema One, says the challenge was really in keeping up with what Kumu has to offer.
“We had to make sure that the content we’re offering is fit for the platform. We went through rounds and rounds of brainstorming to come up with the right formula for the shows,” she shares.
For Patrick Laroco, MYX brand manager, his chief concerns are the technical difficulties inherent in mounting something that is heavily dependent on the internet, and the growing competition posed by other streaming apps.
More avenues to connect
CPI’s partnership with Kumu does not only mean more avenues for fans to see or listen to ABS-CBN artists. It has also spawned exciting ways to interact and connect with their favorites.
Dondi Ocampo, lead for Kumu initiatives of Integrated News, offers that the more relaxed platform allows Karen Davila, for example, to take off her broadcast journalist hat.
“It’s like a breather for Karen. In Kumu, she can roll up her sleeves and just have light conversations with anyone—a deviation from what she does as an anchor for ‘The World Tonight’ and ‘Headstart,’” he points out.
Capuyan sees Kumu as a “very personal platform,” which is why DZMM anchors were free to choose their topics and build their own programs.
She says: “Streaming in Kumu has unique demands that may only be addressed directly by the talents. As interaction and engagement with the viewers are key, they should be quick to acknowledge them while streaming.”
Rafael Manzano, DTT external and digital campaigns specialist, appreciates the more interactive environment for creators and audience afforded by Kumu.
“Audiences are able to communicate and appreciate creators through Kumu’s interactive elements of gifts and diamonds, which we think empowers creators to build more content,” he affirms.
Cinema One’s Francia adds: “While the artists can engage and interact with their live audience on YouTube, Facebook and other platforms, Kumu allows them to really converse with their audience by making them come up the stream. The ‘akyat’ culture on Kumu is what makes the experience different.”
What’s new in 2021
Earlier this year, CPI revealed a coproduction initiative with Kumu, which FYE’s Yambot says will have the immediate impact of improving their shows’ production values and increasing the variety of their content offerings.
“Significantly, many of these shows now air on local cable and TFC, adding fresh hours of content to our TV lineups. And as these shows earn virtual gifts via Kumu campaigns, it reduces our dependence on advertising sales to greenlight and sustain them,” he states.
Yambot looks back on what has been a truly challenging year for CPI and ABS-CBN. Putting their shows on Kumu allowed them to grow their Gen Z audiences while tapping a new growth area for revenues; at the same time, they developed 11 new programs to date airing on local cable TV and on TFC—and they did all these with almost zero incremental budget.
Asked what factors made it work, Yambot explains: “We wouldn’t have reached this point if not for our close collaboration with Angelo Mendez (Kumu chief of content). Aside from investing in our pitches, he has been meeting with our teams to understand our brands, explain their technology, help us brainstorm content and mobilize the Kumu team to support our shows.
“Beyond this, FYE is truly a team effort. CVV (Cory Vidanes, ABS-CBN COO for Broadcast) who has supported us from the very beginning, nurtured the spirit of cooperation among our various LOBs (lines of business) and divisions. The tone was set, so it was clear to us that FYE and whatever we did in Kumu should not be limited to CPI’s brands or how we traditionally defined our markets. This has allowed us to build something new, to be more agile, and to continue growing. We have actually kept up the fast pace of our start-up months, launching an average of one new show a week since the start of 2021.”