ABS-CBN's Historic Milestones Through 70 Years of Service to the Filipino

ABS-CBN's history left indelible marks in Philippine culture and society.

ABS-CBN is one of the few extant postwar organizations that helped revive and rebuild what was left of the tattered Philippine economy after World War II. It traces its roots to 1946 when James Lindenberg founded Bolinao Electronics Corporation or BEC, which became a radio broadcasting company in 1949.

In 1952, Lindenberg partnered with Antonio Quirino, brother of then President Elpidio Quirino, to venture into television broadcasting. They changed BEC’s name to Alto Broadcasting Corporation or ABS, with “Alto” being a contraction of Antonio Quirino's and his wife, Aleli's, names.

In 1957, Eugenio Lopez Sr., owner of Chronicle Broadcasting Network, acquired ABS and merged the two companies as ABS-CBN. Through the years, the network has made indelible marks in Philippine history with the following milestones.

The ABS building in Dewey Boulevard (now Roxas Boulevard)

Photo by Arcana.


ABS aired a party after setting up a transmitter tower in San Juan and importing 300 TV sets on October 23. Co-owner Antonio Quirino hosted the party at his home in Sitio Alto, San Juan. It was the first television broadcast of the company.




Eugenio H. Lopez Sr., owner of Chronicle Broadcasting Network (CBN), acquires ABS on February 24. He renames the network ABS-CBN.



Eugenio “Geny” Lopez, Jr. (ELJ) links the Visayas to the network with his dream of “Bridges on the Air.” ABS-CBN aired its initial telecast of DYCB-TV Channel 3 Cebu on June 14.



ABS-CBN brought color to Philippine television after ELJ forged an agreement between Radio Corporation of America and ABS-CBN to establish the first color TV broadcast in the country.



ABS-CBN became the first network to do comprehensive coverage of the national elections. It aired the first marathon election coverage on November 14. “Halalan ’67” aired poll results and updates for 36 hours straight.



For the first time, the network used live satellite transmissions from abroad, giving the Philippines access to international news and current events as they happened around the world. Through satellite transmissions, it was able to broadcast the funeral of Robert Kennedy in June and the U.S. presidential elections.



Photo by NASA.
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Thanks to ABS-CBN, Filipinos were able to watch the live transmission of the first Moon landing straight from the NASA headquarters. It delivered its “Man on the Moon” coverage, the country’s first live telecast of an event via satellite.



The network wanted to bring more color to television, so it expanded color programming to eight hours a week. It became the most “colorful” television station in the Philippines. Until the mid-1970s, it was the only network broadcasting in color.



ABS-CBN and its affiliate stations were shut down and its owners forcibly ejected by dictator Ferdinand Marcos after he placed the country under martial law.



On September 16, ABS-CBN resumed broadcasting.



Five months after resuming operations, ABS-CBN quickly became the number one network in the Philippines after remaining at the bottom of ratings during the forcible takeover of the network by Marcos’ cronies during martial law.

TV Patrol also aired its first broadcast.



ABS-CBN started its first broadcast through a domestic satellite system, the first in the Philippines. 



The Talent Center is established to develop a stable of new stars for the network.



Regional stations begin producing programs anchored on localized news delivered in the local language in various regions. The strategy paid off, with ABS-CBN solidifying its viewership in the provinces.



Eugenio Lopez III was named ABS-CBN president, while Eugenio Lopez Jr. became chairman. The Filipino Channel (TFC) was launched in April.



Photo by ABS-CBN.

In May, ABS-CBN launched the Sarimanok News Network, later renamed ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC).



Photo by ABS-CBN.

Eugenio Lopez III became chairman and CEO of ABS-CBN. The network also put up Bantay Bata 163, which continues to make significant strides in the fight against child abuse.



ABS-CBN penetrates nearly all Filipino households, reaching 97 percent of the country’s homes that have television.



The network maintained a 93-percent penetration rate of TV households through a network of 35 TV stations and 2,000 affiliates. In the same year, the network embarked on digitalization, which was masterfully spearheaded by then head of digital transformation, Carlo Katigbak.



In June, the ABS-CBN International division became a wholly-owned subsidiary as ABS-CBN Global Limited. This made the network the Philippines' leading international broadcasting company. It helped cement its reputation abroad as among the most visible and respected stations in the Philippines. 



ABS-CBN ended the year with a 42.7 percent audience share nationwide, making it the leading network in the country.




ABS-CBN merged its radio and television media when it launched the DZMM TeleRadyo cable TV channel.



In 2008, Charo Santos-Concio became the company’s fifth president.

In the same year, the network embraced full digitalization and said goodbye to the reel by going tapeless in its TV production in and out of the studios.  



Photo by ABS-CBN.

ABS-CBN sent shockwaves around the world when it broke the news about the Maguindanao Massacre. The world learned about the Maguindanao Massacre through Boto Mo, I-Patrol Mo, wherein a Boto Patroller first sent a photo from the crime scene to the network. ANC was the first media organization to report the news.



The network generated an unprecedented profit of P3.2 billion, double the net income it posted in 2009. In the same year, the network changed its corporate name from ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation to ABS-CBN Corporation. It dropped “Broadcasting” in recognition of changes in the way it delivered its content.


ABS-CBN also introduced the use of augmented reality in broadcasting during its coverage of “Halalan 2010,” which was also the first automated elections in the Philippines.



The company launched Jeepney TV on SKY. The channel generated huge interest thanks to reruns of its programs during the 1990s. In the same year, the company launched online platforms iWantv and TFC.tv so people can stream its programs outside of primetime. These gave viewers unprecedented control on when and where to watch the network’s programs.  

ABS-CBN also acquired Destiny Cable through its subsidiary Sky. The acquisition cemented the network’s hold as the leading cable TV service provider in the Philippines.




In 2014, ABS-CBN received the highest credit rating from Philippine Rating Services Corp. (PhilRatings) for its proposed P10 billion bond issuance. It also bagged a Gold Stevie Award for Favorite Company in the Media & Entertainment category, Services Company of the Year category, and Woman of the Year category (for then president and CEO Charo Santos-Concio).

Additionally, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) honored ABS-CBN chairman Eugenio Lopez III with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 22nd Golden Dove Awards.

Capping the year, the company launched the ABS-CBN University, which is a corporate university that provides practical business knowledge, managerial competencies, and task-oriented education for its talents and employees.



ABS-CBN became the first Philippine station to air free high-definition broadcasting through ABS-CBN HD. In December, Katigbak was appointed chief operating officer of ABS-CBN. A year later, he also became its president.


It was also the year when ABS-CBN launched TV Plus.



It was a breakthrough year for the network's digital efforts.

ABS-CBN News became the only Philippine website recognized among the world’s top 25 publishers on Facebook.

The network also reached 10 million subscribers on YouTube. It received the YouTube Diamond Creator Award for being the first YouTube channel in the Philippines to reach 10 million subscribers. By December, its YouTube channel had three billion views.

HR Asia Media also recognized ABS-CBN as one of the "Best Companies to Work for in Asia." The company also won the international Gold Quill Award for outstanding TV studio audience experience

Sales of TV Plus boxes reach five million.




The network expands into Hollywood TV production and partnered with Dean Devlin’s Electric Entertainment in September.

It also broke Philippine film records when Star Cinema’s Hello, Love, Goodbye made history as highest-grossing Philippine film of all time, raking in P880.6 million worldwide. The next five highest-grossing films in the Philippines are also produced by ABS-CBN.

Sales of TV Plus reached 8 million. 


ABS-CBN is forced to go off the air.

On May 5, 2020, ABS-CBN, the Philippines' largest broadcasting company, shut down. It was forced to sign off the airwaves after the Duterte government refused to renew its license and ordered its shutdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Katigak appeared during the telecast of TV Patrol and delivered a powerful and moving speech announcing the network's shutdown. The president and CEO held back tears as he expressed his sadness about the shutdown and the uncertainty facing the network's 11,000 employees. He also appealed to the public to express their sentiments and make themselves heard. "This time around, we are the ones asking for your help," he said.


Carlo Katigbak's Speech on May 5, 2020 Before ABS-CBN's Shutdown


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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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