Wilma Galvante


This interview originally appeared in the MIPCOM 2011 issue of TV Asia Pacific.
The first half of this year has been a positive one for the Filipino free-to-air giant GMA Network, with double-digit ratings gains at its flagship entertainment channel GMA-7. The broadcaster has been able to drive ad revenues upward after rising to the top of the National Urban Television Audience Measurement ratings, ahead of arch rival ABS-CBN. As the senior VP of entertainment, Wilma Galvante is responsible for the locally developed series that are driving GMA-7’s ratings improvements. A long-time GMA executive, Galvante, a former producer, pioneered the so-called “telefantasys” that have been huge hits for the network. She tells TV Asia Pacific about her approach to developing new Filipino soaps as well as adapting novelas and entertainment formats from the international market.
TV ASIA PACIFIC: What is your overall entertainment programming mandate at GMA Network?
GALVANTE: One of our core values is that we believe that the viewer is the boss. To ensure the delivery of superior entertainment to our TV viewers, we have to know what they want to watch, who they want to see and how they want to be entertained. We endeavor to find out the public’s pulse and try to find out the heartbeat of our viewers, hence, our Kapuso brand of being “one in heart” with our audience.
TV ASIA PACIFIC: You are credited with introducing many changes to GMA’s entertainment lineup. What was your approach to improving the network’s ratings?
GALVANTE: I have always adhered to the value of teamwork. I handle a team of highly creative people for a variety of mainstream and alternative genres, so I lead them to the right direction, encouraging them to search for breakthroughs, those never-before done programs. My group also interacts with other arms of the network that provide input for our different programs.
TV ASIA PACIFIC: How important has it been to have production experience in your programming position?
GALVANTE: With every new production, it is experience that gives you the pulse of what will click. My production work has allowed me to understand what the viewers appreciate, which guides my input in the programming decisions made for GMA. Actually, even in my current position, I still make sure to have a hand in the production work of our major programs and provide the broad strokes for different shows.
TV ASIA PACIFIC: GMA’s fantasy series have sold well in territories in Asia and the Middle East. Why did you first choose to introduce these series to the GMA schedule?
GALVANTE: Fantasy is actually only a device—to add to the visual color. The substance is still in the drama, which I believe has a universal appeal. The basic formula of drama appeals to the core of the viewers across Asia and the Middle East. The fantasy element adds texture and dimension to the storytelling.
TV ASIA PACIFIC: GMA has adapted several Korean and Mexican soaps. How do you go about remaking these shows for Filipino audiences?
GALVANTE: We do not just copy the stories from the originating series, we infuse the adaptation with Pinoy [Filipino] taste and even humor. Since the adaptations we have made are those of series that were huge hits in their dubbed form, it is this additional effort that is required to make sure that the original hit series would remain fresh to the local viewers even as we adapt it to the Filipino audience.
TV ASIA PACIFIC: How important are talent shows and other forms of variety entertainment to GMA?
GALVANTE: We feed a constant hunger from the audience for fresh talent—new faces that viewers can idolize. Talent-show formats allow us to discover and hone potential stars. Many of our big stars now are products of singing contests that we have produced through the years. Talent shows are two-pronged in that you create content and enrich your roster of homegrown talent as well. Variety shows, on the other hand, are employed to showcase the diverse talents we have in our stable.
TV ASIA PACIFIC: What do you look for in international formats when determining if something will work well for GMA viewers?
GALVANTE: Primarily, we come in with open eyes for what is new and available in the market. We make sure to put on lenses with the Filipino taste in mind, with our target market always at the back of our head. And of course, we also read how it performed in other countries and ask our international contacts about these foreign formats.
TV ASIA PACIFIC: Your shows have launched the careers of many Filipino stars; what do you look for when casting?
GALVANTE: With my years of being in the business of entertainment television production, I am someone who can tell if a talent has potential. Of course the initial take will have to be based on looks and how the person’s face registers with the cameras. With auditions and casting, I make sure to look for talent and charm. Sometime you just feel it, that X factor. But for casting into specific roles, we consider star value of the artist, how appropriately the talent matches the role. We also look for chemistry between two people when, for example, we need to cast for a [couple in love], to make sure that they will hit it off right.