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Who Is Carlo Katigbak, President of ABS-CBN?

Carlo Katigbak became ABS-CBN's president and CEO in 2016.
IMAGE ABS-CBN PR
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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. The shutdown cast uncertainty on the jobs of ABS-CBN's 11,000 employees. 

Before the network officially shut down, ABS-CBN's CEO Carlo Katigak appeared on air during the telecast of TV Patrol, in which he delivered a powerful and moving speech announcing the network's shutdown. Katigbak 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," said Katigbak. 

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

Back in February 2020, many people applauded the embattled CEO for delivering an apology on national television and maintaining perfect composure while being grilled by pro-administration senators. But perhaps more significant to Katigbak than issuing a national apology was saving the livelihood of more than 11,000 Filipinos who were counting on him to retain the franchise at whatever cost.

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Many people still associate ABS-CBN’s leadership with Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III, who is chairman emeritus of ABS-CBN Corporation. But who exactly is Carlo Katigbak and how did he end up as ABS-CBN’s president?

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Carlo Joaquin Tadeo Lopez Katigbak, or CLK in corporate jargon, graduated high school from Xavier School in San Juan, and earned a degree in Management Engineering from the Ateneo de Manila University in 1991. 

Katigbak started his career in 1992 as a financial analyst for First Pacific Capital Corporation. He was 21 years old at the time.

Two years later, Katigbak would bare his adroitness at corporate management when he moved to Sky Cable Corporation. Here, Katigbak would cement his reputation as one of the country’s top corporate managers by making Sky among the most profitable media companies in the Philippines.

Katigbak held various positions at Sky, including corporate finance manager, corporate planning, and head of provincial operations—at a time when the provinces were notorious for having no cable television.

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In 1999, when Katigbak was 28 years old, he moved to ABS-CBN and was assigned a herculean task: Build ABS-CBN’s online business and make it the country’s leading digital media corporation on the Internet.

Carlo Katigbak Pioneered ABS-CBN’s Online Platform

The year 1999 was iconic in the Philippines for two reasons: It was the year The Matrix came out, and it was also the year when dial-up Internet access was the only way you could connect to the Internet in the country.

For 28-year-old Katigbak, who found himself managing director of ABS-CBN Interactive, the job represented the future of all media. Long before threats of the network’s closure had bubbled up, the network had been preparing for the death of traditional media and migrating to digital media through the Internet, according to an MSN article quoting Butch Francisco, chair of the Francisco Center for Social Change.

As head of ABS-CBN’s Internet platform from 1999 to 2004, Katigbak paved the digitalization of ABS-CBN’s content. Once he was able to make the Internet a highly profitable platform for the corporation, he was assigned to helm Sky Cable, which ABS-CBN bought in 2004.

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From 2005 to 2011, Katigbak served as Sky’s chief operations officer, and then became its president, radically transforming the company to become the country’s leading cable services provider. During his leadership at Sky, Katigbak introduced the Digibox, which became a widely popular device that allows digital content streaming on televisions.

Carlo Katigbak's Embrace of Disruptive Technology

Katigbak is not one to shy away from disruptive technology that are considered killers of traditional media. In fact, he has embraced them and used them to allow ABS-CBN to adapt to a fast-evolving digital landscape. 

Under Katigbak, ABS-CBN made significant successes with products such as the ABS-CBN TV Plus, streaming app iWant TV, and the Kapamilya Box Office or KBO, expanding the network's platfrom to digital territory. Recognizing that most Filipinos consume content from mobile phones, Katigbak also took on that market by launching the TV Plus Go, a USB device you connect to mobile phones to watch television. 

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Carlo Katigbak Became ABS-CBN President and CEO in 2016

In December 2015, ABS-CBN Corporation announced a big shift in its leadership: The corporation’s president and CEO, Charo Santos-Concio, would be retiring from her post and would be replaced by Carlo Katigbak in January 2016. Katigbak is a cousin of ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez

At present, Katigbak maintains his position as managing director at Sky Cable and eleven other companies, according to the Wall Street Journal. He is also a board member at luxury retailer group SSI, and telecommunications company Bayan Telecommunications, according to a Bloomberg report.

Katigbak faces the toughest challenge for ABS-CBN ever since it was shut down by dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1972. Overcoming this franchise renewal threat will be the test of his mettle. 

In 2018, under Katigbak's leadership, ABS-CBN was recognized as among Asia's best employers. The Following year, it was again recognized as one of the Philippines' top performing companies

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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