Sorensen Media Group made history last night when it flipped the switch that finally introduced 24/7 live programming to Saipan, at its local office along the Paseo de Marianas in Garapan.
At exactly 6pm last night, the island began receiving live broadcast of ABC shows in Guam and the U.S. mainland, starting with its Pacific News Center Night News, which previously came a week delayed.
PNC News anchors Betsie Brown and Josh Tyquiengco immediately welcomed Saipan viewers and acknowledged the historic live program underway.
“You’re watching PNC News broadcasting live to Saipan,” Brown said.
“Saipan viewers, we welcome you to the first-ever live and simultaneous broadcast linking the Marianas,” added Tyquiengco.
Around 30 people—SMG officials and staff, including chair and CEO Rex Sorensen and his wife Mimi, IT&E executives, and other guests—applauded the start of live programming.
“We made history tonight for the entertainment community on Saipan. We tied the Marianas together with the news and I’m excited about that,” said Sorensen. “News will become news that is now new. PNC News, which we will start with tonight, is live as it is happening in Guam. All of the ABC News products coming through will be live or delayed depending on what time they air in the mainland.”
The founder of Air America Radio reiterated that yesterday’s “turning of the switch” marks the first time 24/7 live programming is available on the island.
“It’s live programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You’re not going to see the tape stop and change the DVD. No more. It’s straight. All the sports that ABC has will come out straight. On Sunday, we have three football games starting at 2pm so football fanatics can pick it up and watch them live.”
Sorensen said this is just the beginning of his company’s plans for the Marianas.
“It’s sort of a three-step process. The first step is this, putting live programming. The second step is to move our broadcast facility up to Mt. Tapochao to allow the coverage to reach not only most of Saipan but also a little bit of Tinian on a rabbit ear basis. The third one is to improve the amount of news that we do.”
Sorensen said the new service will also open a lot of advertising and commercial possibilities for its operations on Saipan. He urged businesses to call SMG Saipan manager Tina Palacios if they have inquiries.
“We’re excited about offering this new service and the reach of our TV station is greater than the cable companies because we broadcast over the air for those who don’t subscribe to cable as well as people who do subscribe to cable.”
IT&E CEO Bong Mojica, who attended the event last night, congratulated SMG on this latest development, saying it’s also a fruition of what he said a while back.
“Let’s go a few months back when I said, ‘At some point somebody will bring live programming to Saipan’ and this is the unfolding of that. Rex had this vision and he came to us and asked if we could do a commercial agreement where he wanted to bring his dream of live programming on Saipan. We’ve been planning this for a few months now and we’re here and Rex will be able to bring live TV to the people of Saipan.”
SMG island manager Tina Palacios said the introduction of 24/7 live programming on Saipan only means that the company is moving forward.
“The joke I always made is Saipan is one day ahead of the mainland but years behind. Now I can say we’re the same as the mainland when it comes to TV programming and it means we’re moving forward and we’re here to stay.”
Enhanced viewer experience
Docomo Pacific general manager James Nelson said SMG’s introduction of live programming will bode well for Saipan’s cable viewers.
“The addition of live network programming on ABC7 only adds to the list of current live TV programming and enhances the viewer experience.”
Even as he congratulated SMG for its new service, Nelson reiterated the high cost of undersea fiber optic cable between Guam and the CNMI.
“Our mission continues to be addressing the extremely high cost of undersea fiber optic cable between Saipan and Guam and to bring it down to a reasonable cost so that not only will all cable TV channels be broadcast ‘live,’ but also improve broadband Internet speeds, which we hope will lead to offering an affordable price for these services to the general public.”
Nelson also said that Docomo Pacific currently offers live programming on 14 of its 60 channels.