Anatomy of a Variety Show: ABS-CBN's It's Showtime

by James Patrick Anarcon
Oct 29, 2019
PEP.ph dives deep into the ins and outs of producing a variety show such as ABS-CBN's flagship noontime variety show, It's Showtime.
PHOTO/S: Mark Atienza
ILLUSTRATION: Jeremiah Idanan

ABS-CBN's It's Showtime has been a big part of Philippine pop culture over the past decade.

First launched on October 24, 2009 as part of ABS-CBN's daytime programming, it started as Showtime, a mid-morning fare designed to showcase yet undiscovered talents with world-class showmanship.

The fun and laughter in the show were supplied by the original hosts: Anne Curtis, Vhong Navarro, Billy Crawford, Karylle, Kim Atienza, Teddy Corpuz, Jugs Jugueta, and Vice Ganda.

Their antics gave birth to some of the now widely used catchphrases in Pinoy pop culture, such as "Sample, sample," "May nag-text!" and "madlang pipol."

Showtime has since then dubbed itself as the "Trending Capital of the Philippines."

In January 2012, the show was reformatted into a fully fledged variety program and renamed It's Showtime.

From there, the show opened more opportunities for madlang pipol of all ages to flaunt their hidden talents in dancing, singing, and even acting in drama and comedy.

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This October 2019, It's Showtime celebrates its 10th year on air.

In those ten years, It's Showtime enjoyed several achievements—from producing talents recognized abroad and receiving trophies from award-giving bodies to having moments that went viral and became trending topics on social media.

As well as could be expected, the show muddled through unavoidable hurdles along the way—including struggles with ratings, wrangles with the Movie Television Review and Classification Board, and disturbing incidents with its hosts and contestants.

With everything that It's Showtime has gone through, one thing remains. What happens behind the scenes are kept under wraps, prohibiting any public disclosure.

How does the show conceptualize segments, contests, and gimmicks?

How do the hosts sustain their wit, humor, and energy on stage?

Do TV ratings affect a segment, contest, or a production number?

How did It's Showtime rise above its past struggle in the ratings game?

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PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) seeks answers to these questions straight from the source, It's Showtime's business unit head Peter Dizon.

Dizon has risen through the ranks to become It's Showtime's top honcho in February 2019. He started in the show as executive producer in 2013, and later as production manager.

In this PEP.ph special report, Dizon gives an overview of the development of It's Showtime from a morning talent show to becoming ABS-CBN's signature noontime program.

This PEP.ph special report also features photos from the set of It's Showtime.

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THE EVOLUTION OF IT'S SHOWTIME

Showtime debuted on October 24, 2009, airing from Monday to Saturday at 10:30 a.m., as a vehicle for both amateur and professional dance or singing groups to showcase their talents on national television.

Dizon recalls, "Actually, Showtime started with the talents, with the creative talents from the game unit.

"So, they formed Showtime na mag-cater doon sa mga talents nga na meron tayo sa Pilipinas.

"Like Pilipinas Got Talent, in-open din ng ABS-CBN ang isang opportunity during the noontime na magkaroon ng tiyansa ang mga talento dito sa Pilipinas from dancing to singing and yung pagpapasaya lang talaga."

The original format featured Vice Ganda as resident hurado with three other guest judges, who could be evicted by the madlang pipol by the end of the week.

Showtime remained in its timeslot until it was moved to noontime owing to some developments in the network's daytime programming.

In August 2010, ABS-CBN's noontime program, Wowowee, ended its run in the aftermath of a dispute between the Kapamilya network and Wowowee's host, Willie Revillame.

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ABS-CBN replaced Wowowee with Pilipinas Win na Win, hosted by Kris Aquino and Robin Padilla, but the new show did not pick up ratings.

The network then decided to move Showtime to the 12:00 to 2:30 p.m. timeslot to be followed by Pilipinas Win na Win from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

In January 2011, Showtime was returned to the 10:30 a.m. slot to make way for a new noontime show Happy Yipee Yehey, hosted by John Estrada, Randy Santiago, Toni Gonzaga, and Pokwang.

But after a year, ABS-CBN pulled the plug on Happy Yipee Yehey.

On February 6, 2012, ABS-CBN relaunched Showtime as the new noontime program It's Showtime.

Dizon says the new format of It's Showtime allowed the producers to add more segments and gimmicks to cater the needs of the "madlang pipol," its core audience.

"Before, daytime pa talaga yung Showtime and eventually, napunta siya sa noontime na and nagkaroon pa ng iba't ibang segments na nagpasaya sa madlang pipol.

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"So, aside doon sa competition na nangyayari, meron ding mga gag. Minsan, nagkakaroon ng game show, game segments within the show.

"Nag-open na siya ng doors to a lot of opportunities and a lot of fun para sa audience.

"So, naging ganon na yung composition ng Showtime since napunta siya sa noontime.

"Pero babalik at babalik kami doon sa aming vision na we really want to make people happy at the end of the day."

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At present, It's Showtime airs from Monday to Friday at 12:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m, and every Saturday at 12:00 nn to 3:15 p.m.

How does a normal day go for the creative and production teams of the show?

Dizon says, "Lahat kami, ng team, gising ng mga around 7 a.m. or 8 a.m., and then papasok ng mga 10 a.m.

"Matatapos ang show ng around 3:45 p.m., minsan 4 p.m. kapag sobrang haba ng mga nangyayaring interaction.

"So matatapos yon, doon pa lang magsa-start yung araw namin. And then, magmi-meeting kami kung ano yung magiging final arrangements for the next day."

Dizon says they do have meetings every day but presently, they are rethinking the system.

He elaborates, "Medyo binabago na namin yung sistema. Tina-try namin magkaroon ng pag-a-advance ng mga bagay-bagay para, at least, magkaroon ng time.

"Meron kasi kaming mga grupo within Showtime na merong sariling assignments.

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"So, merong nag-a-advance ng segments, meron ding gagawa ng live shows."

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GREENLIGHTING IT'S SHOWTIME

Through the years, It's Showtime has experimented with varying segments and gimmicks that became popular with the madlang pipol.

Currently, three segments are airing regularly on the Kapamilya show.

One is "Tawag ng Tanghalan," a reincarnation of a singing contest aired in the '50s.

The other two are: "KapareWHO," a blind-dating game for single and widowed men and women, and "Mr. Q&A," a beauty pageant question-and-answer segment.

How does the team of It's Showtime brainstorm and conceptualize its segments?

Dizon explains, "Open kami sa lahat ng suggestions and ideas ng staff.

"So, kapag meron kaming kailangan buuin, siyempre, naka-calendar naman yon.

"And then, bubugbugin namin as a team and siyempre, ita-try namin yung feasibility in terms of logistics, and in terms of kung kaya ba talaga.

"So, we do dry runs several times before namin siyang i-ere."

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The team would then present their concept to the approving executives of ABS-CBN.

Dizon explains the process, "Dumadaan pa yan sa madaming process and maraming approvers dito sa ABS, not just sa management.

"Very careful ang ABS-CBN sa pagma-mount ng mga segments so, as much as possible, we clear all aspects ng isang segment sa iba't ibang department... sa corporate communications, sa security, sa safety.

"A lot of those concerns, iniikot namin siya. So, ang isang segment, mabilis siyang mabuo conceptually pero matagal siyang i-mount.

"Okay yon for us kasi it gives us yung totoong sagot kung magagawa ba talaga siya or hindi.

"Kasi sa point of view namin, siyempre, as creators, as creatives, nangyayari siya sa mga utak namin. Pero di ba, ang realidad, iba naman siya sa umiikot sa utak mo?

"So, siyempre, may mga certain aspects na minsan, blind-sided kami na ang magsasabi sa amin noon ay yung mga counterparts namin within the corporation."

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What does the team of It's Showtime consider as their best practices when doing segments?

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He answers, "I think, one is being open to a lot of possibilities.

"Kasi, di ba, noong pumasok ang 'Tawag ng Tanghalan sa It’s Showtime,' it created a lot of windows, a lot of creative opportunities for Showtime to also embrace concepts na hindi ginagawa sa isang noontime show na kagaya ng 'Q&A.'"

The current "Mr. Q&A" segment of It's Showtime originated from "Miss Q&A," a beauty pageant for gays and transwomen who were judged based on their wit in answering questions.

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Dizon continues, "Di ba, we have that norm na meron tayong beauty contest for male and female sa noontime?

"We eventually had to embrace a concept na magke-cater to a market na kailangang ma-embrace din ng noontime television.

"Di ba, alam naman natin dito sa Pilipinas, hindi basta basta makakagawa ng ganon kapangahas na concept?"

Dizon believes that the sucess of these segments stemmed from their team's desire to introduce innovations.

"Madaming nangyari sa Showtime na yung risks sa pag-a-absorb ng innovation, nagawa na namin yun through the years na open kami sa ganong idea."

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NO SUCH THINGS AS FAILED SEGMENTS

For all its successful gimmicks, It's Showtime also had its fair share of discontinued segments.

However, Dizon does not consider these as failures, but rather as opportunities to develop the concept even more.

He explains, "Hindi ko siya masasabing discontinued practices, kasi sometimes, kapag nag-e-end kami ng segment, we consider them as gems na magiging part kumbaga ng baul namin, ng treasure box namin.

"Pwede siyang hindi nag-work ngayon, pero pwede siyang mag-work sa mga susunod na panahon.

"Sometimes kasi, ang effectiveness ng isang concept, hindi siya dahil pangit or maganda yung concept. It's about timing also, di ba?

"Kung papaano siya uso, kung paano siya nabibigyan ng atensyon ng mga manonood namin, hindi namin yun magagamay kapag hindi siya in-absorb ng mga audience na nanonood that time."

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According to Dizon, they assess a segment based on the feedback of the madlang pipol.

"So, ang basis ng success for a segment or for a concept is the feedback na nakuha niya during its run, so yun ang learning.

"Kung successful yun o hindi, itinatabi namin yun kasi whether hindi siya nagtagumpay, alam namin ngayon kung papaano siya magagamit in the future.

"Kasi nga, hindi siya nag-work during that time na ang uso externally ay ganito, na ang binibigyang atensyon ay ganito.

"So, for example, kung magbabalik kami ng isang segment ngayon, alam na namin yung factors na iku-consider."

One example of a discontinued segment was "Nasaan Ka, Mr. Pastillas?"

Aired in 2015, the segment top-billed Angelica Yap a.k.a. Pastillas Girl, who became viral on the Internet after she incorporated heartbreaking hugot quotes in her pastillas recipe video.

The segment started with her stint in the defunct segment "AdVice Ganda," after she sought the help of Vice Ganda a.k.a Madam Bertud on how to move on from her heartbreak.

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This gave birth to the "Nasaan Ka, Mr. Pastillas?" segment, where Pastillas Girl participated in a matchmaking game.

Viewers believed that the segment was created to compete with Eat Bulaga's popular segment "KalyeSerye," the segment that gave birth to the AlDub love team of Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza a.k.a. Yaya Dub.

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The "KalyeSerye" segment was so popular that it boosted Eat Bulaga's ratings, and had consistently beaten It's Showtime.

Unfortunately, "Nasaan Ka, Mr. Pastillas?" did not enjoy the same popularity of "Kalyeserye."

The segment even became mired in controversy when the Movie Television Review and Classification Board called out It's Showtime for allegedly "pimping" Pastillas Girl.

In the end, MTRCB imposed self-regulation on It's Showtime regarding the segment.

According to Dizon, they were able to apply the lesson from "Nasaan Ka, Mr. Pastillas" to their current segment, "KapareWHO."

He explains, "Actually, ngayon, 'KapareWHO' is like 'Pastillas.'

"If you get to analyze the situation, we already revived the entire structure of 'Pastillas' na nagde-date, nagliligawan on-air.

"Pero kasi, nakakuha kami ng learning sa 'Pastillas' kung ano ba talaga ang magwu-workout na content ang i-e-air kapag ligawan ang gagawin natin.

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"It turned out na ang ligawan ay hindi talaga siya about love agad-agad. It's all about friendship.

"So, when we staged 'KapareWHO,' we really highlighted that part na ang 'KapareWHO' ay hindi isang dating game na nagpa-promise ng love...

"Kung hindi isang possible friendship na pwedeng mag-grow to a more successful relationship—whether you become best friends or become lovers.

"So, di ba, hindi mo aakalain na nagamit na namin yung learnings namin sa 'Pastillas' noon dito sa 'KapareWHO?'"

At present, "KapareWHO" is one of the most-watched segments of the show.

Because of its popularity, there were times when "KapareWHO" would take over the last slot of the show, originally intended for "Tawag ng Tanghalan sa It's Showtime."

Dizon says, "It's really successful for me kasi naka-cater siya ng ibang market, nakakuha siya ng ibang viewers."

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THE HOSTS OF IT'S SHOWTIME

The hosts of It's Showtime and the role of each host have also evolved through the years.

When the show started in 2009 as a talent show, the main hosts were Anne and Vhong, with Vice Ganda as the main hurado.

Their co-hosts Jugs, Teddy, and Kim were the ones who connected and talked to the madlang pipol.

In 2010, Karylle and Billy Crawford, who used to be guest hurados, joined Anne and Vhong as main hosts.

When the show went through a reformat in 2012 as a noontime show, Vice was no longer a hurado but a host.

More hosts were also added—Ryan Bang, Coleen Garcia, Eric "Eruption" Tai, and Jhong Hilario.

Jhong was called the "Sample King" because he would always grant the "Sample, Sample" request of the madlang pipol, where he would show his dance moves.

In 2015, Amy Perez and Mariel Rodriguez joined the show, while James Reid and Nadine Lustre also had a brief hosting stint in the program.

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Dizon says, "Actually, alam naman natin yon na si Anne at si Vhong used to be the main hosts talaga lang of Showtime and then Vice was the main hurado.

"And then sila Jugs at Teddy at si Kuya Kim, sila talaga yung in-charge sa madlang people.

"Ngayon, nag-e-evolve from time to time, may nagte-take over ng main stage, may nagte-take over ng main hurado.

"So, very flexible na ngayon kasi siyempre, ang tagal na din naman nilang magkakasama, ten years na."

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Aside from being presenters, the hosts also collaborate with the team of It's Showtime for gimmicks and spiels.

Dizon points out, "Ang maganda sa mga host namin, they're not just hosts, most of them are creatives also.

"They at least give and partake sa aming mga ginagawang segments, especially now, it's always a collaborative effort with them."

This is also one of the reasons why their banters and stories, especially those delivered by Vice Ganda, go viral on the internet.

According to Dizon, the camaraderie and chemistry of their hosts are not fake, since these banters also happen backstage.

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He says, "Kung ano yung napapanood niyo on stage, 90 percent noon, nangyayari sa backstage.

"So, minsan, kung ano yung ginagawa sa stage, bago pa man sila sumalang, naghahabulan na yan backstage.

"Alam mo yun, nagkukurutan, nagkikilitian na yang mga hosts namin, and even doon sa online.

"Kung papaano namin sila nata-translate, ang key lang naman doon is alam nila kung ano ang mangyayari for the day.

"Para alam nila kung papaano sila magko-contribute. Alam nila kung ano yung ibibigay nila."

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The natural camaraderie of the hosts allows them to help each other whenever one of them gets tied up with busy schedules.

Dizon continues, "Kasi minsan, hindi mo maiiwasan na yung schedule nila ay sobrang hectic.

"So, yun yung maganda sa mga hosts at sa mga artists na naggue-guest, alam nila kung paano tulungan ang isa't isa.

"Vocal naman kami about that. Hindi namin siya iniipit na information na 'Ay, si Vice maraming ginagawa.'

"In fact, ginagawa namin iyong advantage na, 'O, sa ganitong araw, kailangan nating ano, manggagaling sa shoot yan, tutulungan si ganito sa ganitong aspeto.'

"Minsan kasi, may sakit naman yung isa, hindi mo rin maiiwasan yun, so someone has to take over and help manage kung anuman yung kailangang mapunan na posisyon sa araw na yun, kasi meron naman talaga silang mga roles as hosts."

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Even the pinch hitters, or those who substitute the absentees, are selected carefully because they also have to fit in and get along with the resident hosts.

"Kapag may magpi-pinch hit, nakaplano naman talaga siya.

"Mahirap kasi na maglagay ka ng fish out of water na bigla na lang. Alam mo yun, nabigla ka na lang. Naglagay ka diyan na, 'O, guest host ka for the day.'

"Hindi siya nagwu-work I think, kasi nga, hindi mo mata-translate yung relationship on air nang overnight.

"So, kailangan din, magkakakilala yung mga hosts at yung mga guest star na nagpi-pinch hit as host."

It also happens when the hosts get too caught up in a contestant's story that a segment runs overtime.

Dizon says, "Mahirap at mahirap ang pag-o-overtime kasi siyempre, live kami every day.

"Tao lang din naman yung mga hosts namin, so, sometimes they react, they laugh, they cry. So minsan, hindi mo yun mapipigilan."

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At present, Dizon says they are trying to resolve the issue regarding overtime.

"Right now, medyo nababawasan na yung overtime, but siyempre, every day battle siya talaga na makapagpatapos ng show within the given running time.

"Ano talaga siya, e, tulungan pa din kapag humaba ka sa isang ano na part ng show, kokontrolin mo sa ibang part.

"Kapag naman undertime ka doon sa isang part, tutulungan mong makapag-stretch nang kaunti doon sa part ng show."

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THE BUDGET of IT'S SHOWTIME

Asked about the budget alloted for the noontime show, Dizon discloses nothing.

He simply says, "Hindi naman madaling magpasaya ng buong bansa. Of course, kailangan mo pa rin siyang bigyan ng suporta at the end of the day."

But if what he says is an indication, it's not far-fetched to guess the Kapamilya network is disbursing quite a tidy sum for It's Showtime.

Also because in the same breath, Dizon rationalizes there is no accounting for what the show has done, and continues to do so, to help improve the lives or fulfill the dreams of people who get into the show.

He says, "Kasi kapag inisip natin yung presyo kung papaano siya binubuo or ginagawa, hindi noon mapapantayan yung drive namin to create more opportunities sa mga tao na mabago ang buhay nila, na makamit nila ang pangarap nila.

"Hindi siya joke. I mean, part talaga siya ng journey namin as production staff, as creatives ng Showtime, na maging instrument na makatulong."

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"Seryoso, promise, kapag halimbawa, nagpi-finale, lahat kami nag-iiyakan. Nakikita namin kung papaano naggu-grow ang isang artist kasi nagiging part kami ng mga buhay nila.

"So, kung iisipin mo yung ginagastos ng ABS-CBN for that, walang wala yun sa nagiging transformation ng mga buhay ng mga taong dumaan sa Showtime.

"Ang dami na niyan, from TNT Boys to Gollayan Sisters na nag-X Factor na sila at naging 4th Impact, di ba?"

The TNT Boys, composed of Keifer Sanchez, Mackie Empuerto, and Francis Concepcion, are the products of "Tawag ng Tanghalan Kids" in 2017.

The Gollayan Sisters competed in It's Showtime's Bida Kapamilya; in 2015, the sisters joined X Factor UK and finished fifth place. They are now known as 4th Impact.

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Dizon goes to say with pride that It's Showtime has become a stepping stone for many artists aspiring to make it big in showbiz.

He mentions the MiniMe season two grand winner Xia Vigor, who has been cited by the foreign press.

The Huffington Post, Time, and People Magazine praised her impersonation of Taylor Swift in Your Face Sounds Familiar Kids.

Dizon says, "Madami, madami, as in madami talaga, madami kaming na-transform na mga buhay.

"I think, yun ang pinaka trophy namin more than the awards na nakukuha namin sa mga award-giving bodies.

"Kasi every time na nakikita namin yang mga taong yan, from Xia Vigor na isang successful child star ngayon, masaya na meron kaming living proof...

"Masasabi naming, 'Ay, ayan yung pinaghirapan namin. Ayan yung pinagpuyatan namin. Ayan yung pinag-awayan namin sa ganyan. Ito na sila.'"

All of that is the result of joint efforts of the management and production team to maintain the quality and vision of the show.

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Dizon says, "Oo naman. Oo naman, and that's the role of the producers, us. Sa amin yun, to make everything possible even if it's impossible."

To pursue the impossible, he elaborates, "Kung ang goal namin is to make people happy at kung para sa amin ay makakapagpasaya kami sa pamamaraan na kailangang gastusan, siyempre, doon kami kumukuha ng makaka-partner.

"Kaya inu-open namin yung bahay sa mga advertisers, sa mga brands, di ba?

"Ganon yung nagiging working relationship in terms of business kasi nga alam namin, e, kung ano yung kailangang ma-achieve for a certain time na nagma-mount kami ng mga segments."

HOW IT'S SHOWTIME DISCOVER TALENTS

Apart from the talents It's Showtime discovers through its contests, the show was also instrumental in popularizing boy and girl groups in the country through its home-grown Hashtags and GirlTrends.

The Hashtags was formed in 2015, and originally composed of former Pinoy Big Brother housemates, Star Magic talents, and It's Showtime's "Gandang Lalake" segment finalists: Zeus Collins, Jimboy Martin, Tom Doromal, Jameson Blake, McCoy de Leon, Paulo Angeles, Jon Lucas, Ryle Santiago, Ronnie Alonte, Nikko Natividad, and Luke Conde.

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In 2017, the group added new members: Maru Delgado, Wilbert Ross, Rayt Carreon, Charles "CK" Kieron, Vitto Marquez, Kid Yambao, Bugoy Carino, and the late Franco Hernandez.

Meanwhile, GirlTrends was introduced in 2016 and served as the female counterpart of the Hashtags. In May 2019, the group was relaunched as GT.

Its current members are: Chienna Filomeno, Mikee Agustin, Krissha Viaje, Jessica Marasigan, Joana Hipolito, Mica Javier, and Sammie Rimando.

The former members of GirlTrends who were able to make it big in showbiz are: Barbie Imperial, Maris Racal, Loisa Andalio, and new Darna Jane de Leon.

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Dizon says, "Noong binubuo namin yung Hashtags at saka Girltrends, we wanted a flavor na magbibigay ng parang youthful flavor sa Showtime.

"I think, nare-recall ko that time, nagke-cater ang Showtime sa isang certain demographics lang.

"So, yung Hashtags at Girltrends were a jolt that time na maging refreshing mix na merong dynamic na mga bata na nagsasayaw at kumakanta.

"Itriny din namin yung ganoong way. Eventually, the brand of Hashtags and Girltrends have to develop and take on another path, especially now na marami din silang nagiging kalaban na.

"Part naman ng succession plans nila kung ano yung magiging kapupuntahan ng bawat kanya kanyang grupo."

Dizon is happy that most of these performers are able to make a name for themselves with the breaks they received on television, which also helped It's Showtime's clout.

"Ang maganda kasi doon, they are ambassadors of the show. So, when you see a Hashtag or when you see a GirlTrend, you'll really associate them with Showtime.

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"It's a win-win for us, also for them, kasi siyempre, they get the exposure and we get naman the acknowledgement that they're part of Showtime.

"So, more than the magic na madadala nila doon noong time na kailangan namin ng tulong, I think yung ni-look forward namin is to really have ambassadors who will spread the vision of the group na magpasaya nga ng tao.

"I think, nase-serve naman nila ngayon kasi from the fiestas na pinupuntahan nila to the events na nagkakaroon sila ng meet-and-greet or sa mga teleserye na napagcast-an nila, nagkaroon na rin kami ng mga produkto ng mga naging leading men.

"Yung ibang GirlTrends, naka-cast na din. Nadadala kasi, nadadala namin yung reminder na 'Oops, taga-Showtime yan.'"

In terms of the show's contests like "Tawag ng Tanghalan (TNT)," "Miss Q&A," and "BidaMan," the producers of It's Showtime have also set standards for the contestants.

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This is especially true for "TNT," since ABS-CBN also airs other singing competitions like The Voice and Idol Philippines, which Dizon also produces as production manager.

He explains, "'TNT' kasi is a gem of ABS-CBN. It's a talent show na hindi siya part ng baul ng It's Showtime.

"It's in the treasure box of ABS-CBN legacy brand na binuo pa noong '50s na from radio show, naging TV show.

"It's an amateur singing contest, yes. But siyempre, ang hinahanap namin diyan is yung boses na mangingibabaw.

"Boses na magre-reflect kung ano yung pulso ng masa, kasi ang 'TNT' ay isang singing olympics at masasabi kong ito yung pinakamahirap na singing show in terms of how often it airs – six times a week."

"I'm also the producer of Idol and The Voice, so doon kasi, labanan din siya ng magkakaiba, e, magkakaiba yung ginagawa ng mga singers doon.

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"Sa 'TNT' kasi, you compete, compete, and compete, and it's live every day.

"Doon kasi [sa Idol and The Voice], may ample time to prepare for you to showcase your talents.

"Sa 'TNT,' it's boses talaga na mangingibabaw, na magmamarka sa masa.

"Walang singing show ang madali kasi it takes a lot of hardwork and dedication."

There are now three "TNT" winners: Noven Belleza (Season 1), Janine Berdin (Season 2), and Elaine Duran (Season 3).

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For the "Miss Q&A" and "Mr. Q&A" segments, Dizon explains, "Ang Q&A naman, binuo siya because ang talino ay hindi nakikita sa panglabas na kaanyuan. Yun talaga ang pinaka big idea ng 'Miss Q&A.'

"Kasi, di ba, ang kagandahan ay nasa kung papaano mo nakikita sa kanya kanyang perspektibo?

"So, yun yung kinukuha namin every time na merong ginagawa kaming daily competition, talaktakan.

"It's all about perspective, e. Hindi siya talino, e. Kung papaano mo naiintindihan ang isang bagay sa iyong pananaw, sa iyong paninindigan. Yun yung 'Q&A.'"

"Miss Q&A" has two winners: Juliana Parizcova Segovia (season one) and Mitch Montecarlo Suansane (season two).

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"BidaMan," the most recent addition to It's Showtime, is practically a talent search for potential leading men.

Dizon says, "Si 'Bidaman' naman, hinahanap namin yung leading man na tatanggapin ng bagong mundo ng media kasi hindi na lang tayo ngayon drama sa TV.

"We are very open to building a name na magiging leading man, malay mo, sa iWant, sa mga over-the-top platforms natin kasi madami yan.

"Kung ang mga palabas nga sa Netflix at yung mga artista na part ng mga series sa over-the-top streaming platforms abroad ay nakikilala natin ngayon at nagiging billboard sa EDSA, bakit hindi natin siya pwede gawin ngayon? Kaya nabuo yung 'Bidaman.'

"Anywhere siya, pwede siya, kasi hindi naman natin malalaman kung saan ang magiging placement noong mga magiging Bidaman na madi-discover until magkaroon ng chance na ma-i-cast talaga siya.

"Pero yun talaga siya, naghahanap kami ng new pool of leading men."

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In August 2019, Jin Macapagal was hailed as the Ultimate BidaMan.

Apart from the contests aired on It's Showtime, the show's producers also do internal auditions for talents that they need in the show, such as in the case of "Kuya Escort" Ion Perez and "Ate Girl" Jackie Gonzaga.

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Ion and Jackie play the escort and muse for the "Q&A" and "KapareWHO" segments.

Dizon explains, "As for Ion, nagkaroon ng search because of "Miss Q&A" na meron talagang escort na kailangan doon sa segment.

"Internally, nagpahanap ng pwedeng maging escort, then ngayon, nagiging ano na din sila, part ng interaction, nagiging part ng fun, ng lokohan.

"Ano talaga siya, depende sa need, depende sa hinahanap ng grupo."

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IT'S SHOWTIME RATINGS

Just like any other show, It's Showtime relies on TV ratings and feedback to assess its strengths and weaknesses.

As the show's business unit head, it has become a practice for Dizon to review the ratings of the show per segment.

This, according to him, is a healthy practice to keep the staff on their toes.

He explains, "Yes. I make it a point na hinihimay ko actually per segment talaga sa team, so they would know sino ang nag peak for that day, sino ang mababa for that day.

"It's for their improvement para alam namin, historical data-wise, kung papaano gagawin yung combination every day.

"Kasi siyempre, madami, mauubos at mauubos ka sa araw araw na ginawa ng Diyos na nagpapatakbo kami ng isang noontime show.

"Iba't ibang flavor ang kailangan mong i-offer, so kailangan mo na talagang mahimay kung ano yun, kung saan yung nagiging strength, saan yung nagiging weakness, para naha-harness mo yun as learning.

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"Nagagamit mo yun as an advantage sa mga susunod mo pang episodes na ima-mount."

For seven years, It's Showtime has been going head-to-head against Eat Bulaga!, an institution in noontime programming that has been running for more than 40 years.

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There is a level of acceptance that it will always be touch and go for It's Showtime versus the competition.

Still, according to Dizon, they do not use the ratings of Eat Bulaga! as a measure to assess their own popularity.

He says, "Actually, yung benchmark namin is our own ratings, noong sumampa ako diyan, yun yung ginagawa kong benchmark.

"Because once na binenchmark mo yung kalaban, ang motivation mo is to beat them.

"Mas magandang motivation is yung i-beat mo yung sarili mo. Yun yung lagi kong ini-instill even sa mga OJT [on-the-job trainee] na dumadaan, mga interns na dumadaan sa amin.

"So, we always aspire to at least create benchmarks sa pagtalo sa sarili naming feat, pagtalo sa sarili naming record."

"So, for example, yung finale ng "Tawag ng Tanghalan" noong first year, nag-create siya ng benchmarks within ABS-CBN na bineat niya lahat ng records, pati Halalan."

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The first season grand finals of "Tawag ng Tanghalan" in March 11, 2017 registered a national TV rating of 33.6 percent against Eat Bulaga's 11.7 percent.

Dizon continues, "Ganoon ang pagbe-benchmark within our team kasi mas, I think, nagiging fruitful.

"And with respect naman sa Eat Bulaga!, siyempre, meron din naman silang bine-benchmark within their target market.

"Siyempre kami, ang target market namin ay yung madlang pipol na talagang core audience ng ABS-CBN and yun yung mas importante for us."

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FEEDBACK FROM SOCIAL MEDIA

Aside from the ratings, the It's Showtime team also takes note of the feedback they receive from social media.

However, Dizon said they know which ones to pay attention to and forget the rest.

He expounds, "Oo, masaya yan, actually, kasi siyempre with social media, ang dali kang ma-bash, ang dali mong mang-bash.

"Kung ikaw ay isang Twitter user, freedom of speech yun, e, freedom of expression.

"Kung gusto mong mang-bash, bahala ka. Pero kung gusto mong pumuri or kung gusto mong magbigay ng feedback na maganda, nasa sa 'yo pa rin yun.

"So, sa amin, madami kaming means of catering to those kinds of feedback."

According to Dizon, they make sure that they address feedback from the audience, especially those who send them direct mails.

"Aside from social media, meron kaming message center and we get direct mails.

"So lahat yun, naaaral and good thing about it, pinapasagot ko sa staff lahat, kasi sometimes yung feedback ng mga audience, meron silang naibibigay, e.

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"May naibibigay silang suggestion at ideas na minsan, hindi din naman namin naiisip.

"So, maganda siyang feedback system among our audience kasi ang mahalaga doon, whether good or bad, nagpi-feedback sila kasi they are consumers of our products.

"They're entitled to say something kasi pinaglaanan nila kami ng panahon para panoorin."

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Viewers are also welcome to tweet their feedback on It's Showtime's hosts.

How do the hosts get informed about audience feedback?

Dizon says, "Nalalaman nila yan depende sa sitwasyon kasi kapag alam naman namin na it's going to be constructive, we tell them that.

"Kapag valid yung point noong nag-feedback, nakakarating yun sa kanila.

"Kapag naman nanggugulo or talagang negative yung comment at makakaapekto sa kanila, hindi na lang din namin binibigyan ng atensyon.

"Not because it does not matter, but kasi, kung ano yung ipapasok mo sa kanila, yun naman din yung ibibigay nila.

"At the end of the day, nagma-matter na mapasaya nila yung mas nakakaraming audience kaysa mag-dwell sila sa isang negative feedback."

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IT'S SHOWTIME VS. EAT BULAGA! IN 2015

In 2015, It's Showtime got a drubbing against Eat Bulaga! in the ratings game.

That was when the "Kalyeserye" love team of Alden Richards and Yaya Dub a.k.a. Maine Mendoza was at its height.

Dizon acknowledges,"Yes, it was hard. Hindi naman namin ide-deny yun... It was a learning experience for the whole team of It's Showtime.

"It was a good experience. It was a humbling, fulfilling experience for us, kasi, as a company, we tried thinking of ways on how to at least, compete during that time.

"It's about sa hindi pagsuko noong grupo na magbigay ng kasiyahan sa mga tao.

"Kasi, during that time, kung pwede lang i-fold up yung show, ginawa na, pero hindi yun yung naging option. Hindi sumuko yung kahit sino sa amin.

"Kasi ang dami naming naging learning, kumbaga, kapag sinugatan ka, kapag natuyo yung sugat at naghilom siya, alam mo na kung papaano ingatan ang isang bagay.

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"So, yun I think yung naging learning ng buong Showtime team during that time—na alagaan, protektahan yung bawat isa.

"Hindi maging kampante, yun naman siya. Sabi ko nga kanina, pinakamahalagang lesson doon is talunin yung sarili. Di ba?"

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In 2016, the show's ratings started to inch up when it premiered the "Tawag ng Tanghalan sa It's Showtime" segment.

It was also during that time when It's Showtime's two-and-a-half hour running time was extended to three hours and thirty minutes, 12:15 to 3:45 p.m.

Though It's Showtime has surpassed one of its biggest challenges in terms of ratings, Dizon says the team has not slackened in their drive to be on top of their game, not so much to compete but to give the show their best shot all the time.

Now that its extended timeslot, the show is up for the challenge posed by with two programs of different genres: GMA-7's staple noontime show Eat Bulaga! from 12:15 to 2:30 p.m. and its afternoon drama show at 2:30 to 3:45 p.m.

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Dizon says, "Siyempre, iba-iba ng market yan, e, di ba? Iba-iba ng market ang mga kalaban namin. So ang hirap for us.

"Just imagine kung fully ang laban is variety, alam namin siya."

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In fact, It's Showtime has become even more innovative with its gimmicks to appeal to different markets at the same that it continues to cater to its core audience: the madlang pipol.

Dizon continues, "Ngayon, madami kaming mina-manage... ginagawa na namin iyong opportunity para, at least, i-hone yung craft ng bawat isa sa amin at i-ensure na yung loyal audience namin ay talagang hindi bibitaw.

"More than anything else, yes, we want new audience, new markets to come in.

"Pero, siyempre, mahalaga pa rin yung palaging protektahan yung madlang pipol, kasi sila naman yung nagma-matter, e. Yung Showtime, ginawa for them, di ba?

"Yun talaga ang goal, para pasayahin sila at hindi yun Miss Universe answer or whatever, but pagka nabago yun, mag-iiba, sobrang mag-iiba."

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THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF IT'S SHOWTIME

In the past ten years, It's Showtime has received several awards and trophies from award-giving bodies.

The team also considers the popularity of the show's gimmicks, and segments as an achievement by itself.

That the show has created subsidiaries such an artist management arm is another accomplishment Dizon is proud of.

He tells PEP.ph, "We were able to create new businesses within the show.

"Nagkaroon kami ng mga artista sa industry from Xia Vigor to the Hashtags and GirlTrends, nabigyan ng relevance yung mga pangalan ng mga bata.

"Pumasok ang 'TNT,' nagkaroon ng maraming opportunities for singers to develop their skills, even if tapos na ang competition na kung saan sila napapabilang. Nagkaroon sila ng opportunity na ma-cast globally, mag-create ng brand.

"We ventured to concerts, to events, to a lot of things, managing talents. Nagkaroon kami ng label.

"Madami, madaming bagay. Even Showtime, meron din siyang artist management team."

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On March 2019, It's Showtime added another feather in its cap, an Indonesian franchise.

Apart from It's Showtime, Dizon also serves as a producer for acquired franchise programs of ABS-CBN, like The Voice, Your Face Sounds Familiar, and Idol Philippines.

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This is the reason why he felt ecstatic when the format of It's Showtime was acquired by MNCTV, an Indonesian TV network.

He explains with a smile, "Oo, iba siya, kasi I started producing sa ABS, original format yung hawak ko and then when I got the opportunity to produce The Voice, of course, madami akong naging learning with the foreign counterparts, sa headquarters ng The Voice.

"Nagsunud-sunod na yun, e—[Pilipinas] Got Talent, Your Face Sounds Familiar, Little Big Shots.

"Iba yung feeling, iba yung pride kapag nakakagawa ka ng version mo ng isang sikat na foreign title, ng isang foreign format.

"Pero mas iba pala yung pride na maibibigay sa 'yo kasi siyempre, produkto niyo—yung produkto na yun, ililipat ng bansa, e."

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It's Showtime is not the first Filipino variety program to be acquired by a foreign company.

The first was its rival program Eat Bulaga!, which was also acquired by Indonesia where it aired from July 2012 to April 2014, and from November 2014 to August 2016.

Dizon continues, "Mas masaya ang feeling, siyempre, I know naman na hindi naman kami yung pinaka unang programa na nakapagbenta ng format sa ibang bansa.

"Pero kasi, right now, fulfilling siya because sa kasikatan ng social media, di ba?

"Mas magiging maganda yung ecosystem natin kasi siyempre, yung mga Pilipino sa ibang bansa, mabibigay sa amin kung anong nangyayari doon, unlike before na hindi naman natin totally napapanood yung mga nangyayari sa ibang bansa."

Currently, It's Showtime Indonesia is on a break, since Indonesia has a different programming scheme compared to the Philippines.

"I think nag-rest muna siya. Inaayos lang. Iba kasi yung programming nila doon, e."

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But then, Dizon wishes that more countries and production companies will be interested in doing an It's Showtime franchise.

He says, "Sana, sana, yes. Yun naman ever since yung target."

THE FUTURE OF IT'S SHOWTIME

As It's Showtime celebrates its tenth year on air, the show's production team has laid out plans for a year-long celebration.

These plans go beyond the annual "Magpasikat" contest where the show's cast members would be grouped and compete with each other.

Dizon cites one plan involving the madlang pipol around the world.

He says, "Part of that celebration, yung pag-extend ng brand sa iba't ibang Pilipino sa buong mundo. Maraming plano talaga.

"We're excited to also share that Showtime will become part of your pagbabalikbayan.

"So yun yung aabangan niyo kasi we're extending the audience experience of Showtime to everyone who's travelling the Philippines.

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"We will embrace all the tourists sa Pilipinas na maging part ang Showtime ng kanilang pagbabakasyon at pagsasaya kasi nga we want to make people happy."

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For the year-long anniversary celebration, It's Showtime plans to bring back some of its popular segments.

Staying true to its tenth anniversary tagline "Sampu-Sample," It's Showtime also brings back its original talent-show format during its daytime timeslot days.

Dizon says, "We are going to bring back 'Sine Mo 'To,' magkakaroon ng 'Advice Ganda,' meron din kaming 'Ansabe.'

"All the rest naman of the old segment, pwede namin siyang ibalik kasi year-long naman yung celebration. For now, yung three segments ang naiisip namin ibalik.

"We are also bringing back the original Showtime where XB Gensan won.

"So yun yung talagang ipu-push namin kasi yun ang totoong 'Sampu-Sample,' e.

"Yung 'Sampu-Sample' na catchphrase, doon talaga siya nanggaling, sa pagkuha ng mga talento sa barangay, sa probinsya natin. Kung naaalala niyo yung first year, di ba?

"Nasabi kanina na meron din kaming advocacies na gagawin. We would like to start the tree-planting campaign para makatulong tayo sa environment, magkaroon tayo ng fresher oxygen atmosphere."

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The artist management arm of It's Showtime is also busy planning the career paths of their artists, especially with BidaMan winner Jin Macapagal and other BidaMan finalists.

"Yung BidaMan, may kanya kanya silang careers naman ngayon.

"Si Jin is doing movies, nakatapos na siya ng isang pelikula, may gagawin siya ngayong isa sa Regal and I think, VIVA is also offering him a movie.

"Sa Star Cinema naman, yung movie nila Vice yung inaasikaso sa kanya.

"All the other BidaMan, busy naman sila sa pag-promote ng ABS-CBN products, so sila yung brand ambassadors ng TV Plus Go, madami naman sila ginagawa."

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Though Tawag ng Tanghalan Year 3 grand winner Elaine Duran and runners-up John Mark Saga and John Michael dela Cerna were just fresh from the contest, the artist management of It's Showtime were also able to lay out plans for them.

Dizon says, "Sila Elaine, John Mark, and John Michael, kakatapos lang ng planning namin, nailatag kung ano ang magiging career path nila.

"So excited ako sa mga single na gagawin nila. May nakaplano na."

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Being one of the many variety shows that have aired in the Philippines, Dizon is aware that It's Showtime might not be the first in the gimmicks they have done.

But Dizon believes that after 10 years of It's Showtime, their program has already made its own mark.

He explains, "Parang tapos na yung gano'ng competition na kung sino ang nauna at sinong mas magaling.

"Ang nagma-matter naman na ngayon is kung sino yung nagte-trending, sino yung nakakapagpasaya, sino yung nagmamarka, di ba?

"It's about the influence that you create, that you etch doon sa utak ng mga taong nanonood na kapag sinabi mong 'Gusto kong sumaya, papanoorin ko Showtime,' ganon siya.

"Yun ang mas nagma-matter ngayon, hindi yung kung sino ang unang naka-create ng innovation.

"Hindi yun matatapos. Definitely meron at merong nakaisip niyan dati, di ba? Ang tanong is kung sino ngayon yung mas magmamarka."

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ABOUT IT'S SHOWTIME's BUSINESS UNIT HEAD:

Peter Edward Dizon is It's Showtime's business unit head from early 2019. Before rising to the ranks as the over-all show-runner of It's Showtime, he started as a writer and producer in ABS-CBN Cable Channels and Print Media Group from 2009 to 2012. He began working as executive producer of ABS-CBN'sreality-competition programs in 2011—I Dare You, We Love OPM, Pinoy Pop Superstar, and The Voice of the Philippines. From December 2016 to February 2019, he worked as production manager for the TV shows Little Big Shots, Pilipinas Got Talent, and Your Face Sounds Familiar.

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SPECIAL THANKS TO:

Rae Ducut, Justin Irons, and Aaron Domingo of ABS-CBN Corporate Communications

Jerome Vargas, associate producer of It's Showtime

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PEP.ph dives deep into the ins and outs of producing a variety show such as ABS-CBN's flagship noontime variety show, It's Showtime.
PHOTO/S: Mark Atienza
ILLUSTRATION: Jeremiah Idanan
  • This article was created by . Edits have been made by the PEP.ph editors.
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