Filipino Flavor That Feeds a Global Appetite

Roxanne J. Barcelona, VP of GMA Network’s worldwide division, talks to TV Drama about the high demand for family dramas, romantic comedies and romantic dramas.

This has led to ongoing deals for the company’s daytime dramas Prima Donnas and Broken Faith and prime-time top-raters Descendants of the Sun, I Can See You and Love of My Life, as well as the hit prime-time series The First Nanny.

“GMA remains the premier source of Filipino dramas for partners looking for outside-the-box and beyond-conventional stories,” Barcelona says. “Clients acquire our top-rating dramas and romantic comedies because they not only entertain but also give hope and touch the hearts of viewers, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Its series produced under “the new normal” of the current times have continued to receive positive responses from partners across Asia and Latin America, while its family and romantic dramas have resonated with audiences in sub-Saharan Africa. It is the Filipino values of resilience, perseverance and familial love that are particularly relatable in these markets, Barcelona adds.

“GMA is known to push boundaries and continues to experiment on productions with themes like crime and action, supernatural and suspense,” she says. “The network continues to produce fresh content, including a number of big-budget fantasy-adventure series with special effects.” Among these titles are The Eagle’s Quest (Agimat ng Agila), Lolong and the live-action adaptation of the Japanese anime Voltes V: Legacy.

GMA is also in discussion with several production partners in Asia for co-production opportunities, “to deliver content that will surely make a mark with audiences across Asia,” Barcelona says.

The company recently entered into a multiyear partnership with iQiyi International that makes GMA dramas the first Filipino content to be available on the OTT platform. There is also a continuing partnership with Netflix that brings its dramas to an even wider audience. GMA has an ongoing partnership with YouTube as well. “In 2020, GMA Network became the first Filipino TV network and the second TV network in Southeast Asia to have two YouTube Channels with 10 million subscribers,” says Barcelona. “These partnerships with major OTT platforms further strengthen GMA’s presence in the digital space.”

As for remakes, GMA completed its adaptation of the Korean hit drama Descendants of the Sun in 2020. Other remakes are in the works, including a local adaptation of the Korean variety show Running Man and iconic Japanese anime Voltes V. “Negotiations are ongoing to franchise other popular dramas from top content producers and give these memorable stories the GMA brand of Filipino flavor and treatment,” says Barcelona.

The company also licenses its dramas for scripted adaptations globally. “GMA has drama formats with unique storylines with relatable themes that are common to many markets, especially in Asia and Latin America,” Barcelona says. “Themes on family values, faith/spirituality and enduring friendships are topics that are common to a global audience. We sold a number of our drama formats to Mexico, Vietnam and Cambodia. Some of these formats are awaiting production. We make sure that the scripts we offer to a particular territory are flexible enough to introduce local elements that will make it more appealing to their local viewers.”