by Anna Gamboa
MANILA – Affable and self-effacing, Carlo Katigbak has worked at ABS-CBN and its subsidiary SkyCable for a little over two decades, taking on projects that involved dealing with new markets, novel technology and helping give the company its competitive edge when it came to effectively delivering its goods and services. Dubbed as the golden boy of the company, a title which he insists in humility is undeserved, he was announced in March 2015 as ABSCBN’s new chief operating officer, transitioning from his current position as SkyCable’s president.
adobo sat down with Katigbak to find out more about the man behind the numbers—who likes nothing more than going home after a hard day at work. He gets up at 5.30 am and goes for a 40-minute run each day, before going to work at 8 or 8.30am. It’s his quiet time, he explains, getting emails out of the way so he can focus on what needs to be done at work. He logs in 11- to 12-hour workdays, ideally getting home in time for dinner. But with his new responsibilities, he understands very well there are appearances to be made, interviews to be done, now that the spotlight’s on him.
He humorously recalls a request he had made jokingly of Kane Choa, ABS-CBN’s head for publicity and marketing. “[I said] ‘Can you overexpose me, Kane?’ They said they’re gonna have to make an announcement. I said, ‘well, yeah, make an announcement.’ They didn’t say they were gonna make the announcement on TV Patrol, ANC…” and in the middle of enumerating other ABS-CBN news outlets, he laughs sheepishly, a tiny bit embarrassed at being thrust into the glare of the limelight, but accepting that this attention comes with the job. After all, he does contribute to making the company an efficient and profitable vehicle for news and entertainment. Hence, running helps him stay focused, and gives him the outlet he needs before facing the day’s challenges at a desk.
A graduate of B.S. Management Engineering from Ateneo de Manila University, Katigbak started out as a financial analyst before moving to SkyCable in 1994. “My first job was to bring Sky outside Metro Manila. Sky’s cable TV operation was predominantly Metro Manila, so I did that for five years, opened in all the key cities in the country.” He recalls: “I moved to ABS in 1999. I was asked to build our online business. So we started a company called ABS-CBN Interactive, and it evolved over time, we didn’t just end up doing stuff on the web, we started pioneering a lot of things on mobile.”
Referring to SkyCable’s 25th year, Katigbak is all praise “(I’m) so proud of them, and the company’s done some pretty amazing things. You know in ABS we always say kapamilya and when I think about Sky I can really say I know the true meaning of the word kapamilya. It’s been a family that’s stayed together through some very, very difficult times. A lot of true malasakit—we’ve asked them to make sacrifices, personal sacrifices, so that we could turn the company around.” You get the feeling that for sheer sincerity Katigbak’s rock-solid belief in the company can rally factions and dissenting individuals into a cohesive army, ready to take on all comers.
SkyCable’s employees pretty much returned the love many times over, as recounted by Arlene Torres, the cable provider’s marketing director, who described an auditorium full of employees cheering wildly like fans at a rock concert in support for Katigbak when his transition to the COO position at ABS-CBN was announced. Katigbak grins. “I get feedback from everyone now,” with the indication that it includes the unsolicited variety. “I can’t walk anywhere without getting feedback,” he laughs. What’s it like getting all this input all the time then? “It’s great, it’s great,” he assures adobo, “Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s constructive—it’s always good to know that people can be honest with you, sometimes you get to a certain point where people are too intimidated to tell you the truth.”
THE FUTURE: ALREADY HERE
If there’s anything Katigbak may possibly owe the company, it’s the fact that he met his wife at SkyCable, observing proper office decorum by not pursuing her—until she quit one year into her job there. Another source of joy for this family man is his ten-year-old son. “I spent a week with him teaching him to bike and dive. I love diving, it’s one of the things I really enjoy. Just to do it with my son, the fascination of seeing everything underwater for the first time, there’s nothing man-made, and feel that you can share an experience like this is absolutely awesome. So we had a great trip, we got to do all these awesome things together. We went snorkeling, there was a resident pawikan, we were swimming with that sea turtle for about an hour following him. What an experience! So beautiful talaga.” he grins happily in remembered pleasure.
It’s partly because of his son Katigbak is more keenly aware of the viewing habits of a much younger, tech-savvy generation. “We’re no longer just looking at cable or satellite as [the] competition,” he says, pointing out that out of three hours of TV time, his son easily uses up two just watching YouTube, following the virtual adventures of a boy and a girl roaming their self-made world in Minecraft.
Able to meet the demands of work and balance the needs of his family, Katigbak remains a husband and father who looks forward to opportunities to spend quality time with his family, especially as his son transitions from childhood to young adulthood. This is one man who already knows the future is here, and never takes a single moment for granted.
SERVICING EVERY SINGLE FILIPINO
Katigbak has been with the company for a total of 21 years, and hopes to help reach 100 million Filipinos— with the aim that one day every Filipino will use at least one ABSCBN service in the near future.
As for the next 21 years, it can only hold more challenges and opportunities for Katigbak and ABS-CBN. With the various services available –and still being developed—and the manner they’re delivered, they’re thinking of the immediate future—which is quickly becoming the present. The single screen paradigm is now changing, as households have access to different devices and primetime no longer is dictated by a single person for a whole group. Rather, it is increasingly becoming an individual experience. Katigbak muses: “Everybody’s got their own devices: the phone, the tablet, someone’s watching on TV, and the content is different. It’s not a ‘five years from now’ scenario, it’s happening now.”
Asked about other companies aggressively developing other platforms and content in a similar matter—and if he viewed any particular channel as a threat, Katigbak diplomatically replies: “I think you never wanna take your competitors for granted. You just want to be a little on the paranoid side, but our forte has always been creating great content, and as long as we keep our edge, our journalistic standpoint, our creative standpoint, we’ll continue to be just as good if not even better. It’s a healthy respect for what your competitors are doing.” Here he smiles in quiet confidence. “But I wouldn’t say [I’m] worried.”