The family-owned entertainment company Viva Communications, Inc. is turning 40 years old today.

Viva Communications, formerly Viva Entertainment, was born after its founder and chairman Vic del Rosario Jr. transitioned to making movies following the success of his music label Vicor with his cousin Orly Ilacad.

In 1986, on Viva’s fifth year, Boss Vic, as he’s fondly called in the industry, recruited his eldest son and namesake Vincent del Rosario III to the family business straight out of high school.

Vincent, who now sits as president and COO of Viva Communications, Inc., recalled to The STAR: “Ano ako, long-staying student in high school. I finished (high school) when I was 20. Because I was studying in San Beda, sabi niya (Boss Vic) nasa Manila yan, malapit sa Escolta, Sta. Cruz. ‘Pag pasok ko ng college, sabi niya, kunin mo yung morning session lang and then pagkatapos ng lunch break mo, takbo ka na sa Escolta, ikot ka ng mga office ng mga producer dun, mamili tayo ng video rights, TV rights.”

Back then, Vincent questioned his father’s reasons for the instruction. “Sabi ko, bakit tayo bibili, gumagawa naman tayo ng pelikula, hindi ba enough yung ginagawa natin, yung pino-produce ng Viva? He said, ‘Hindi, nakikita ko, time will come that the movie library will become valuable because of the development, improvement in technology. Nakikita mo ngayon, nanonood tayo ng Betamax, pero hindi matitigil yan dyan. Anything we have now can still be used or has value many years from now.’”

“True enough, up to now, yung PBO and Vivamax, you’ll see movies there that we picked up or produced in the ‘80s, as valuable with the most current productions that we do,” he added.

After that, Vincent officially joined the company and never looked back since. “Inaabutan niya ako tuwing may pelikula kami nabibili. Of course, after that, tinatamad na rin ako mag-school, then I guess na-realize din niya na itong anak ko, walang mangyayari sa eskwela nito, anim din na taon binuo ang high school, so ayoko ng another six to eight years in college, ‘wag na tayo magkunwari (laughs).”

He recounted their father-son conversation: “Pinatawag niya ako minsan, ‘Alam mo, hindi hiyang sayo ang school, tulungan mo nalang ako, kelangan ako ng parang caddy sa golf, parang alalay, meron akong mautos-utusan.’”

During that time, Boss Vic had the help of his siblings, but the company was “still quite lean.” Their office used to be at the old house in Scout Albano in Quezon City, which has since been converted into the Pinoy Big Brother house.

“So, in ‘86, sabi niya, sa akin ka na mag-aral at mas marami kang matutunan dito sa negosyo na ‘to. Dun na nagsimula and wala na. Wala ng alisan,” Vincent mused.

For him, having witnessed the company’s growth into a “total” entertainment outfit it is now, the 40th anniversary is a “validation” of his father’s “leadership and foresight” to transition to doing movies without giving up “his passion for OPM and record business.” The very first Viva film was P.S. I Love You, Sharon Cuneta’s second movie with Gabby Concepcion, released on Nov. 12, 1981.

To date, the company owns an extensive library of films, music, TV shows, concerts, etc.; offers content development and production, marketing and distribution services; creates content for various platforms, including streaming service Vivamax; and operates Pay TV channels such as Philippine Box Office (PBO), recording studio and artist agency, among others.

Asked what other visions his father had during those start-up years, which have since been met or surpassed, Vincent said, “In the ‘80s, lagi niyang kinukwento sa amin, ang buhay ng negosyo natin are the artists that we represent. If we create stars, everything down the line is feeding off those stars — you’ll be able to make films, record for your music company, stage concerts. Our mindset always is to find the new star and improve the star value of existing artists.”

He continued: “I think through the years, lagi tayo sa Viva merong go-to actor, actress or a singer that can tide us through the lean times. First, there was Sharon, then Regine (Velasquez), of course, sila Robin (Padilla), Andrew E., and eventually, dito na kina Anne (Curtis), Sarah (Geronimo) at sila Bela (Padilla), Yassi (Pressman).”

Their work mantra, he noted, is inspired by Lew Wasserman, founder of MCA Music. “Lagi niyang (Boss Vic) kino-quote yung founder ng MCA na, ‘He who controls the stars, controls Hollywood.’ So in a smaller way, we try to mimic that. Yun yung vision, magiging madali lahat sa business na ito if you have the right stars and hindi kami magwe-waver sa paghahanap ng talents. Mahirap kasi umasa and manghiram from other companies if you’re doing movies.”

For Vincent, there are Top 3 lessons he learned from Boss Vic about business.

“Don’t be scared to make mistakes. At the same time, sinasabi niya rin, matakot ka na ‘pag inulit mo na yung mistakes mo. So, I guess, ‘wag kang paulit-ulit kung alam mo ng mali.

“Because we’re in the business of creating and being part of pop culture, lagi niyang sinasabi, ‘wag mong dadalhin yung gusto mo in life. If preference mo ay artistic movies, ‘wag mong dalhin sa negosyo. Dapat hiwalay yung personal preference mo sa preference ng nakararami. At first, when we were younger, it was hard as we had the tendency to look at art more than commerce. So very early on, that was instilled in us.

“Third and last: Always take care of the people that are with us. Treat them as family, as co-equals, because at the end of the day, they will make you what you want to be. Your success relies heavily on the people that you work with.”

Vincent considers the time now as the toughest challenge for the four-decade-old company, especially as they’ve ventured into something “na di naman alam… the technology, the platform, it’s very new,” which is Vivamax.

He described the decision to launch the streaming platform January this year as another leap of faith.“But it’s a leap of faith na tingin namin dapat namin gawin because I think the future of our business, most especially with the content side, depends heavily on the success of Vivamax.”

As of August this year, Vivamax hit at least 600,000 subscribers and became the No. 1 entertainment app on Google Play, outperforming even international streaming brands.

They are looking to continue to stay on course. “The plan really is to go big on the streaming and continue to produce content. Middle of this year, we said we will do 50 movies. We’re on track.”

Their next big plan is to go public. “I think na-chart na ni Boss Vic what we’re going to do in the next five years. Currently, we’re privately-owned, it’s a family corporation, siempre isa sa mga opportunities na tinitingnan is to eventually go public either next year or the next few years, hopefully within the next five years.”

On the family front, the third-generation members are getting more involved in running the business.

Three of Vincent’s kids, for one, are already working in Viva’s music, digital and finance departments. “Malaking bagay na nakapasok sila at an early age in the business. Marami pang time si Lolo nila, si Boss Vic, na maturuan sila in the same manner naturuan kami apat na magkakapatid.

“Ngayon parang si Boss Vic spends more time with them than us kids. Minsan nagseselos kami parang may mas time siya kanila (laughs). Hindi, happy kami. I think the kids are learning. And we’re learning from the kids.”

Learnings from the new blood have inspired digital efforts, from streaming to podcasts. Vincent said, “Aming pagiging heavy sa mga influencers, yung mga nag-yu-YouTube, nagba-vlog, was borne out of their suggestions and recommendations na, ‘Dad, yung legacy business natin, OK naman yan, the films, music and others, but let’s hedge din sa digital.’”

“So they’re a big help and at the same time, influence sa pagiging mas forward thinking ni Boss Vic and kaming mga second-generation,” he added.

Vincent said that the “real key” to their longevity is Boss Vic, who is far from slowing down.

“Very hands-on si Daddy, in all aspects of the business, to the smallest detail, he knows. Andun kami magkakapatid basically to assist and help him implement his vision, his plans, but otherwise we take orders from him.

“To set an example, siya lagi ang last na empleyadong umaalis ng opisina kapag pumapasok siya. Even during the pandemic, pumapasok siya. He’s 76 years old but he feels like he’s in his 30s, yung kanyang drive, passion.

“I guess it’s his love for the industry, local movies and OPM (that drives him). Marami kaming ginagawa na efforts, especially for music, na tingin niya it won’t generate the revenues that we want but we still do it anyway because it will help the industry, composers, singers. Yun ang first love niya — music.”

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