Would TVJ—the trio of Tito Sotto, Vic Sotto, and Joey De Leon—still host a show called Eat Bulaga! following their transfer to TV5 and amid their trademark battle against TAPE Inc., their former producer at GMA Network?
For them, fans are in for a surprise this July 1 when they air their soon-to-be-named show's pilot episode as they, along with other "legit" Dabarkads, formally entered into an "investment agreement" on June 20 with MediaQuest Holdings Inc., the company that owns and operates TV5.
Under the agreement, TVJ will manage a new production company, TVJ Productions Inc., and come up with content for MediaQuest's distribution channels and platforms. They'll also take over the noontime slot of ABS-CBN's It's Showtime!, which will air on GMA's GTV Channel starting July 1 as its contract with TV5 expires on June 30.
It's Showtime was reportedly offered a 4:30 p.m. slot on TV5 in favor of TVJ, but declined the offer as it wanted to keep its usual timeslot.
Full creative control
In a media conference later in the day, MediaQuest President and Chief Executive Officer Jane Jimenez-Basas said TVJ Productions Inc. will have full creative control over its planned shows for TV5 and other MediaQuest platforms.
MediaQuest Chairman Manny V. Pangilinan, meanwhile, said they felt "obligated" to give TVJ and their team a home as icons of Philippine television.
Pangilinan also likened TVJ to Gilas Pilipinas, which his companies have invested a lot on. He noted how many parties expressed misgivings over Gilas due to the seeming lack of potential to become "world champions," yet it didn't make him stop supporting the national basketball team.
"And my answer is very simple: Mahal ng Pilipino ang basketball. Pwede ba nating talikuran ang minamahal ng mga Pinoy? Ganoon din sa Eat Bulaga!. We cannot turn our backs (on them)."
Pangilinan said they're looking forward to a “very productive and long partnership" with TVJ.
As the co-founder of TVJ Productions Inc., Tito sees it as a "very different feeling" being in charge moving forward.
"Mas engaged na kami sa production. We never talked to other people of (TAPE Inc.)," he said. "This time with MediaQuest, we will be more hands-on."
"Hindi na bago ang TV5 sa akin, pero bago ang excitement ko (dito)," added Joey, who once served as host of gag show WOW Mali. Vic also had hosted TV5's game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
Eat Bulaga! rights
During the conference, Tito said though they're "definitely" still working on the legal aspects of things, they asserted that rights over Eat Bulaga! are theirs.
"Si Joey ang nag-imbento nun," he said. "It might take some time, but we will be able to use Eat Bulaga!. I'm sure of that."
"Isu-surprise namin kayo sa title ng show," he added.
Joey previously said he conceptualized the show's title in 1979, though he was initially doubtful that it will have name recall. Eat Bulaga! is airing for over 44 years and is now the country's longest-running noontime variety show. It has over 13,000 episodes to date.
During the conference, Joey jokingly said they ought to make another television "history" by carrying on with Eat Bulaga! on TV5, nevermind the show airing on GMA.
"Kalabanin natin ang sarili. Eat Bulaga! at Eat Bulaga!," he said.
For Vic's part, he repeatedly said their show will always be Eat Bulaga!. "Basta, kahit anong mangyari, Eat Bulaga! pa rin kami," he said. "More than half of your life, Eat Bulaga! (na). Tapos kukunin lang ng kung sino-sino? 'Di pwede."
"Alam naman ng mga manonood kung ano ang legit sa hindi," he added.
TAPE president Romeo "Jon-Jon" Jalosjos Jr. and chief finance officer Seth Frederick "Bullet" Jalosjos have said the company owns Eat Bulaga! as it's the registered trademark owner before the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL).
TAPE's trademark on Eat Bulaga! expired last June 14 since the 10-year ownership period already lapsed, though Bullet told PEP.ph they already filed for renewal.
TVJ alongside former TAPE president Antonio Tuviera, meanwhile, applied for a trademark in February, involving merchandise content and entertainment services. The following month, De Leon filed an application on behalf of TVJ, which only involves the latter.
The trio also filed a petition to cancel TAPE's trademark for "Eat Bulaga!" and "EB" on the grounds of “fraudulent” registration on June 2.
Dabarkads' loyalty to TVJ
TVJ's May 31 announcement about their departure from TAPE amid several issues was followed by the resignation of Eat Bulaga! staff members, including hosts, writers, sales, production, and cameramen. Since June 5, the noontime show has been airing on live television as usual, but with new hosts Paolo Contis, Buboy Villar, Betong Sumaya, Alexa Miro, Cassy Legaspi, and Mavy Legaspi.
At the TV5 press conference on June 20, the show's former co-hosts reiterated their loyalty to TVJ and how they'll always be with them.
Maine Mendoza, for one, recalled auditioning for Eat Bulaga! in 2015, and how it changed her life forever.
"The rest is history," she said. "Kung 'di dahil sa TVJ, 'di rin naman ako makakarating kung nasaan ako ngayon. I'm truly grateful."
Jose Manalo, Wally Bayola, and Paolo Ballesteros—or JoWaPao—were reportedly offered a deal to stay with GMA Network despite TVJ's imminent departure.
Manalo said no amount of money can buy gratitude and respect. "Iyong prinsipyo, dala-dala mo iyan kahit natutulog ka, at iyong pinakita sa amin ng TVJ... tinuruan nila kaming humawak ng kutsara't tinidor."
Bayola echoed Manalo's sentiments, saying though they're not rich, it's not enough reason to turn their backs on TVJ. "Basta, ang nasa puso, susunod ako sa TVJ. Ang loyalty ko nasa TVJ."
Ballesteros, for his part, recalled how TVJ wholeheartedly accepted him and trusted him despite being relatively new in the industry. "Walang question-question, iyong ginawa naming pagsunod sa kanila, it's basic human instinct," he said. "Kung saan ang TVJ, doon kami."
Ryan Agoncillo, in a heartfelt message, recalled how he accepted the offer to become part of Dabarkads on a random Friday night even as he was still navigating the married life. He also said how he was supposedly being let go by the management, yet TVJ fought for him.
"If you have TVJ backing you up, pwede mong dalhin sa bangko iyan," he said.
"As long as yung katabi ko ay TVJ at Dabarkads... you knew that was the right move," he added.