Sunday, August 5, 2018

Mingpao Weekly Interview: Sheren Tang on reprimanding TVB: “The deeper the love, the stronger the criticism”

As a follow up to my post from last week about Sheren Tang and Sunny Chan filming a series for ViuTV, I saw the below interview in this week's issue of Mingpao Weekly magazine and absolutely had to translate and share it right away!  MP printed a condensed version of this interview in their regular entertainment news section so in case you see parts of this interview elsewhere, know that the below is the actual full version as originally printed.

Sheren's interview speaks for itself but I have to say that I absolutely love the way she responded to all those media reports about her "betraying" TVB by filming for ViuTV (quite honestly, those reports pissed me off too so I'm happy to see Sheren putting those stupid media outlets in their place, lol!).  Also love what she said about the importance of speaking up when there are issues and not pretending that everything is fine when it's actually not.  And yes, when I read the part where Sheren gave her 愛之深,責之切 speech, I actually got out of my chair and did a happy dance because everything she said is EXACTLY what I've been saying about TVB for like the past 2 decades.  I'm sure those who follow my blog or any of my postings in other forums know how much I'm always criticizing TVB and calling them out on stuff (in my line of work, I call that type of feedback "constructive criticism") -- I've been asked many times whether I keep criticizing TVB because I hate them so much that I can't saying anything nice about them (which technically isn't true because I DO say nice things when it's appropriate, it's just that those "appropriate" times are few and far between -- hey, it's not my fault that TVB rarely does anything that warrants praise).  In response, I always give people my "constructive criticism" speech, which is essentially the same as Sheren's  愛之深,責之切 speech -- if I didn't care about TVB (and the HK entertainment industry in general), I wouldn't bother to give them feedback on what they're doing wrong in the hopes that they'll change it for the better.  One thing that my boss at work told me a long time ago that has always stuck with me is that the more someone cares about something/someone, the more critical they are going to be because they don't want to see that something/someone fail.  Of course, the way the criticism is given is important as well, but the gist of the message is that just because someone is critical of something (or someone else) doesn't necessarily mean that the person has malicious intent or is out to get the other person or whatnot -- there is such a thing as "constructive criticism" and hopefully those who believe that all criticism is bad can perhaps research this term and better understand what criticism is truly about.

Anyway, enjoy the interview and be sure to leave any comments / reactions you might have to it in the comments section below.  


Sheren Tang on reprimanding TVB:  “The deeper the love, the stronger the criticism”

Source:  Mingpao Weekly, Issue # 2595
Published 8/4/2018

Translated by: llwy12


ViuTV has been recruiting heavily in recent days, securing veteran artists such as Amy Chan (陳秀雯) and Liu Kai Chi (廖啟智) to film a new series for them about HK’s school system. Their most successful recruitment recently though is persuading TV Queen Sheren Tang (鄧萃雯) to film a series for them — she will be teaming up with actor Sunny Chan (陳錦鴻) in a new series where they will play a married couple.  At the end of last year, when golden scriptwriter Chan Po Wah (陳寳華) returned to TVB with the intention of producing the new series Wonder Women (多功能老婆) for them, she had indicated that good friend Sheren Tang would be perfect in the role — however in the end, the role went to singer/actress Miriam Yeung (楊千嬅) instead. Now, after several months, Sheren personally clarifies what happened with that situation and why a previously rumored return to TVB ended up being a collaboration with ViuTV instead. 


Every time Sheren Tang is rumored to have a television project forthcoming, it’s usually a given that audiences excitedly anticipate her new series.  Last year, when scriptwriter Chan Po Wah announced she would be returning to TVB in early 2018 to prepare for a new series, she had expressed interest in inviting actress Sheren Tang to take up the starring role. Immediately, TVB’s assistant manager of production (non-drama department) Sandy Yu as well as deputy general manager Felix To personally reached out to Sheren to discuss the possibility of her returning to TVB to film Po Wah Jeh’s series.  However, in the end, the role went to Miriam Yeung and instead of returning to TVB, it was recently announced that Sheren will now be filming for ViuTV.  As soon as the news broke, various media outlets started reporting that Sheren, in filming for a rival station, has turned against TVB.

Towards this, Sheren responds: “I actually never turned down [Po Wah Jeh’s series] Wonder Women. In fact, I’m very grateful to Po Wah Jeh for considering me as her first choice to star in her series when it was confirmed last year that she would be returning to TVB. Usually, when a project is still in the discussion stage and I haven’t made the decision to accept yet, I don’t like to talk about it publicly — at the time, the discussion was actually only in very early stages, but as Po Wah Jeh’s good friend, I knew that she really wanted me to support her.  This was the first time she would be returning after so many years and I also admired TVB’s sincerity in inviting her back — all of us shared the same goal in wanting to film a truly good quality series and the fact that they were willing to really focus on the production was already worth supporting.  So I agreed to do that interview in support of Po Wah Jeh [TN: THIS is the interview Sheren is referring to] with the hope that it would bring more attention to the project — besides, I love HK series and am more than willingly to support a good quality production!  At the time, my intention was actually very simple.  After that, I actually didn’t hear anything more about the project and there was no further follow up.  I’m sure they [TVB] have their reasons for choosing Miriam. I’m actually happy for them because to me, the most important thing is being able to produce a quality series so that audiences can see that HK series are worth watching.”

In terms of multiple media outlets reporting that she “betrayed” TVB by agreeing to film for ViuTV and once again bringing up her past gripes with her former employer, Sheren responded:  “Many artists came from TVB and whenever any of them leave, the media always makes them out to be ‘traitors’ — honestly, this type of mindset is so outdated!  In today’s internet-driven world, with people watching series online now and so many different options, the HK market is already so small, why are we fighting amongst ourselves?  Sure, in series I film, there is often a lot of infighting, but in real life, my sights are set pretty far — what is the point of [each station] competing so aggressively against each other?  Does it really prove that you’re the best if you beat other HK series? If it’s really necessary to fight, why not try to beat American, Japanese, Korean, Mainland series instead?  People keep saying that I’m always reprimanding TVB — in response, I really want to tell them: ‘the deeper the love, the stronger the criticism’ [愛之深,責之切]!  If I didn’t love HK series, love my profession, I wouldn’t be so adamant about giving feedback and hoping for improvement – I could just stand back and let things happen without bothering.  All I want is for my colleagues and the entire industry to do well, to be an industry we can be proud of.  Not saying that TVB is regressing, but rather, the film and television industries in the rest of the world are all progressing, moving way ahead of us [HK].  When this is something that everyone can see, how can I possibly close my eyes and continue to pretend that TVB series are perfect, that nothing is wrong?  When even the reporters start to sense that something is wrong and they come ask me for my opinion, as an artist with experience, I am simply stating the truth of what I feel and know. HK series used to be the ‘big brother’, the leader [in Asia], so many people grew up watching TVB – it is because I love TVB a lot that I dare to reprimand them.  Actually, in the past, when having dinner with TVB colleagues and a few of the execs were present, I would pull the execs aside and take the opportunity to tell them about the problems I’ve seen [within the company], but unfortunately that never seemed to do any good.  When the reporters discover the same issues and come ask me, I’m sorry but I’m not a 3 year old who can just pretend nothing is wrong and blindly go along with things, especially when I’ve also seen those issues with my own eyes.  Good acting can’t cover up things that are so obviously visible to the naked eye, such as crude stage sets for example,  [TN:  Sheren is referring to the time when she filmed TVB series No Regrets where she complained that the stage sets looked really fake and also were falling apart right before her eyes – it was a distraction for her when she was trying to film her scenes], also declining ratings, audiences complaining they can’t understand the series, etc. -- in this situation, I cannot just bury my conscience and say everything is fine.  When it gets to the point where even reprimanding them no longer works, then I try a different method, go elsewhere in efforts to prove to them that the advice I am trying to give them can result in successes.  I hope that people will stop slandering me – I am actually the one who loves TVB the most!”

Received complete script prior to filming

Those who invite Sheren to film for them know that she has quite strict requirements, so the fact that she is willing to film for ViuTV means that they must have passed muster.  Sheren explained her decision to film with ViuTV:  “Actually, there were a few reasons why I decided to collaborate with them – I was impressed by their sincerity for one and two, I was attracted by the freshness of the script.  The story revolves around relationships and at its core, it’s about dealing with the various feelings and emotions surrounding this. I like this story’s theme because it fits with my personality – I’m the type of person who feels things especially strongly and acutely.  The character I’ll be playing has her complexities, only a handful of people surround her, yet their relationships [to each other] are linked in countless ways.  I honestly feel that playing characters in palace series, period pieces, even playing strong career women roles, is really not that difficult because at the end of the day, most audiences don’t really know what it is truly like.  Playing an ordinary person dealing with the complexities of marriage, that type of role is challenging because it’s so universal – you have to be very meticulous and careful with your performance in order to make your character resonate with audiences.  The other important piece to this is my physical ability to perform – for me, I need to have sufficient rest and sleep in order to be at my best performance level.  I’ve told you guys in the past that nowadays it’s impossible for me to work long hours day and night without sleep or rest and still be able to give a good performance.  With everything being high definition nowadays, I want the result that audiences see on-screen to be me at my prettiest and most alert, which is why it’s so important for me to get enough rest and sleep.  Also, my other requirement is that I must receive the entire script prior to starting filming – this is something that I refuse to compromise.  The reason for this is because if I don’t have the complete script, it’s impossible for me to fully understand and digest my character and figure out the best way to portray her.  I need sufficient time to prepare and study my character in depth and if I’m not given that time, it directly affects the quality of my performance.  In order to make a truly good series that is able to compete with the outside world, every position at every level is important and no detail can be overlooked.  We have to admit that the market in HK, as compared with the Mainland, is indeed very small, but that doesn’t mean we’re incapable of producing quality dramas that people can respect and approve of.  In order to make this happen, all of us need to play our part and put in the extra effort as well as take the production seriously.”

Since filming for ViuTV’s new series doesn’t start until September, Sheren is spending this next month preparing for her role.  “The producer Ruby [TN: book series “Margaret & David” author 南方舞廳] actually approached me about working with her around the same time that Po Wah Jeh did.  When it comes to production companies that approach me for collaboration, I don’t play favorites – if they are not able to meet my requirements, then I turn them down, it doesn’t matter who they are.  With Ruby and ViuTV, I told them that I must have the complete script in my hands before I agree to film and they were actually able to deliver – I received the entire script more than a month ahead of when filming is scheduled to start!  They told me that even if I didn’t request to have the completed script before filming, they would still do so anyway because they need time to prepare as well – we all have the same goal of wanting to put forth our best work.  Of course, the end result is not something we are able to control, but if a lot of people end up praising the series, that will be a reflection of the entire cast and crew’s efforts.  Our entertainment industry plays an important role in maintaining HK’s reputation.”

Monday, July 30, 2018

Breaking News: Sheren Tang, Sunny Chan, and Amy Chan to film new series for ViuTV

Saw this article and got super excited so figured I post now and elaborate later, lol.

Basically, I just found out that two of my favorite television actors/actresses – Sunny Chan and Sheren Tang – will be filming a new series for ViuTV.  The series will be produced by   南方舞廳   (whom most people may recognize as the name of the author who wrote the Margaret and David books, the entire franchise of which was turned into a series by ViuTV that aired over the past 2 or so years). 

Sheren and Sunny will play a married couple and the theme of the series will be about older couple relationships (kind of in the same vein as M&D, which was also about relationships except the central couple was younger).  I'm excited (first time I've felt excited for a series in a long time), since Sheren and Sunny are 2 of my favorite actors/actresses,  it's been a long time since I've seen them onscreen, the pairing is fresh (trying to remember but I don't think the two of them have collaborated before), and the theme / plot will be more relevant to society as well as different from typical HK series (no more TVB recycled formula – yay!).

According to the producer, Sheren's only requirement was that she receive the entire script in hand before commencing filming and they've already delivered on that!  Now it makes sense why Sheren didn’t take up the offer to film that new Chan Bo Wah series from TVB...they probably couldn’t meet whatever demands she had.

In related news, veteran actress Amy Chan Sau Man (another actress I like) will also be filming a series for ViuTV but not the same one as Sheren and Sunny.  Wow, ViuTV is really hitting it into the park with the veterans this year – after reuniting “Greed of Man” father and son Adam Cheng and Michael Tao in the Detective Psycho Prequel earlier in the month, now they're bringing on veterans that many of us have been waiting a long time to see again.  Hope they keep this up!!  I for one will definitely be keeping an eye out for their upcoming series!

More to come on this!!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Fox Asia’s “The Trading Floor” to premiere on May 24th

Saw this article yesterday about Fox Asia's highly anticipated first Chinese-language series, "The Trading Floor."  Many of us were wondering when this series will air and the last I had heard several months back was Spring 2018….well, yesterday they finally announced that the series will officially premiere on Fox's Chinese language channel on May 24th.

Below are some of the highlights from the article (will translate in more detail when I have time but for those who can read Chinese, I suggest checking out the original article itself).

-          Chinese name of the series changed from  香港華爾街   to 東方華爾街
-          Producer for the series is Andy Lau
-          Director is KK Wong (he was the director/producer for HKTV's "The Election")
-          Cast features ensemble of actors/actresses from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mainland China
-          Partial cast includes:  Francis Ng, Joseph Chang, Patrick Tam, Maggie Cheung, Liu Kai Chi, Poon Chan Leung, Law Kar Ying, Cheung Lui, Carlos Chan, Jacky Cai, Fish Liew, etc.
-          Season 1 will be 5 episodes
-          Story is about the finance sector in Asia and the changes that it goes through over a 20 year time period.  Francis plays a finance expert who will do everything he can to climb to the top and become finance boss – throughout the process, he will face off against his apprentice student Joseph Chang

There is a trailer included in the article, which I haven't had a chance to watch yet so I'm not sure if it's the same one as previously released.  The 2 posters are new though and both versions (which have been dubbed "Cash 1.0" and "Cash 2.0" by the director) look AWESOME!

I honestly can't wait to watch this series!

Link to article:即時娛樂/186166/東方華爾街-吳鎮宇張孝全師徒決裂-記錄亞洲金融戰場20年

Sunday, May 6, 2018

CRHK Radio Interview with Ricky Wong -- PART 2 (END)

Here's part 2 of the interview that Ricky Wong did with CRHK back on 3/29.  Before reading this post, please go back and read my post recapping PART 1 first -- you can read it here.

Again, enjoy and feel free to comment below! :-)


CRHK radio program:
On A Clear Day (在晴朗的一天出發)
Hosts:  Stephen Chan (陳志雲), Chan Chong (陳聰), Yeung Lok San (楊樂笙)
Guest:  Ricky Wong (王維)


-          Continuing interview with Ricky Wong…

-          One of the hosts started off by saying that this 8 year process of applying for a free-to-air license has officially come to an end, but is it truly over?  The host asked now that it’s official, looking back, what, in Ricky Wong’s opinion, is the reason why HKTV was not able to get its license?

o   Ricky said that he actually doesn’t know why (the hosts must have been staring at him incredulously because then he said – even with your six pairs of eyes staring me down right now, I still have to say I don’t know).   

o   He said he doesn’t know why, but regardless, to him, this “project” (HKTV as a television station) has already ended.

o   Then the host asked – so if in the future someone asks you this same question, is that how you are going to respond – that you don’t know?  Ricky responded saying he truly doesn’t know so yes, that’s how he would answer.

-          Stephen Chan asks then how would you describe this “finale”?  After all, it did end in such a dramatic way….

o   Ricky said that in life, there are a lot of things that we don’t know the answer to anyway.  You can’t spend your entire life looking for answers to everything.  That’s just the way life works and we have to accept that. 

o   Stephen agreed with him – they both said that instead of trying to find the answer, why not just look to the future?  Life is too short to spend all that time trying to analyze the past.  It’s better to look to the future and spend that time/energy doing present things well.

-          Stephen then said that he truly does feel bad for Ricky because he is one of the few people who actually did persevere to the very end.  He said that a lot of citizens feel this way too.

o   Many citizens sympathize with HKTV because they truly had a heart for doing this and for the longest time, didn’t give up. 

o   For example – even after the free-to-air license was denied, HKTV decided to try mobile license instead, but even that got shot down because of the government’s assertion that the mobile spectrum will reach more than 5000 households, which is equivalent to operating under a free TV license. [TN:  At the time, the government claimed that HKTV was trying to circumvent the system and so took them to court to prevent them from launching using the mobile license.]

o   This shows that Ricky (and HKTV) never gave up and actually did try other paths, but unfortunately, all the doors were shut on them.

o   Stephen said that he agrees with the general sentiment that if HKTV had gotten its free-to-air license back then, the television environment / landscape in HK would’ve definitely been different.

o   Stephen then ended this segment by saying – “It’s fine though, I guess we can just hope that there will be another Ricky Wong in the future…but then again, it’s probably not going to happen….” [TN:  LOL…while I definitely feel that Stephen was sincere in sympathizing with Ricky Wong (especially given his own run-in and subsequent legal battle with TVB, he definitely has a bone to pick with them still…), his tone also sounded a little facetious in that he was indirectly taking jabs at the government for their repressive actions…]

Moving on to the audience call-in segment….[TN: note that the hosts decided to take all the calls and have the audience ask their questions first, then later Ricky Wong would answer/address each question after the person hangs up].

-          First call is from Mr. Tam:  the gist of his call was to give Ricky Wong words of encouragement and support.  Here are the highlights of his call:

o   Mr. Tam said that he was listening to all the stuff Ricky said about why he (HKTV) doesn’t want to continue “waiting” for a license and he agrees with all the points he had made. 

o   He said that everything Ricky had done in terms of career – IDD and broadband (telecommunications), television, and now e-commerce – all have one common characteristic running through them:  in the face of big corporation monopolies, he (Ricky) tried to forge a path that was different from the status quo…on this path, he had some huge successes (telecommunications business) as well as some failures (television), both of which are inevitable.

o   He went on to say that with the license thing, yes, it was technically “one man’s decision” but at the end of the day, it’s a government prerogative and things didn’t work out.  He hopes that Ricky won’t be discouraged by the television thing failing and instead, will find success with the e-commerce venture.

o   Mr. Tam ended his call with some advice:  he said that at the end of the day, consumers are also customers – yes, they will wholeheartedly throw their support behind a project at the moment, but to maintain that support, it’s important to make sure that both the products as well as customer service continue to be up to par.  Also, the government will no doubt play a role, but in any case, he wishes Ricky and HKTV the best and hope they find success with e-commerce.  [TN:  Mr. Tam mentioned the name of someone – I’m assuming a businessman in HK --  in the past who had also tried to do e-commerce in HK but failed – I didn’t catch the name of the person nor do I know any details about this, but I’m curious enough to perhaps do some research on it at some point if I have time.]

o   Stephen asked Mr. Tam if those last words of Mr. Tam’s were meant as encouragement or warning, to which Mr. Tam said (several times) that it was absolutely meant as encouragement.  He said that it is all about having the HK spirit, so it’s absolutely encouragement on his part.

-          Second call was from Mr. Chan, who asked 2 questions:

1 )    Ricky is known for being a shrewd businessman with many innovative, creative ideas, so back when they had heard he was going to apply for a license, many audiences were actually looking forward to it…Ricky was probably looking forward to it as well…but in the end, it didn’t happen.

His question is this:  from the time the government invited Ricky Wong to apply for a license (implying most likely he was going to get the license), but then in the end they denied his application (which can be viewed as the government reneging on their promise), was there any point when Ricky was mad enough at the government to perhaps want to get back at them – not necessarily “revenge” per se but things like revealing any “dirt” on the government he may have on them for instance?  Mr. Chan was basically curious as to what Ricky Wong’s feelings were after the license denial. 

o   Ricky’s response:  He believes that no matter what we do, we should not have the attitude of wanting to seek revenge when things don’t work out in our favor.  He said that revenge was never something that he considered. 

2)      At the time that Ricky and HKTV were applying for a license, he had a lot of staff / people fighting the battle with him and the overall sentiment at the time was a happy one.  Even when the government started giving them a hard time, the staff still stood by Ricky because they saw how hard he was fighting back.  In the end though, with the recent announcement, he has now decided to give up the fight – does he feel that he is letting those staff who stood by him down?  Especially since all the staff who worked for him truly did have heart and the desire to change things for the better.

o   Ricky’s response:  From the day the announcement was made, there has been uneasiness in his heart.  Back during the “battle” for a license, there were many staff who had decided to leave the “safe harbor” they had stayed at for 10, 20, 30 years and go work for him in a new environment.  He knows the courage and trust involved to make such a move, yet in the end he failed them in not being able to get a license…

o   After a bit of a pause, Ricky said that he doesn’t know if apologizing helps or not but personally, he has apologized to many of his staff already multiple times and will continue to do so because that’s all he can do that’s within his control.

-          Third call was from Mr. Kwan, who also wanted to ask Ricky 2 questions:

1)      Currently, filming web series is a very popular venture that many production companies are getting into.  Does Ricky have any intention of filming or perhaps investing in web series for his HKTVmall platform to support the products he is selling?  Something along the lines of those commercials that HKTV had filmed and aired during two of their series [TN: Borderline and The Election] which were actually interactive with the series itself.  Investing in web series is the trend right now and there is definitely money to be made there.

Ricky’s response:

o   Ricky started off by saying that Mr. Kwan’s suggestion is very good.  He emphasized that even though they (HKTV) are giving up on a TV license, that doesn’t mean they are giving up on multi-media production. 

o   He said that with their e-commerce business, they do plan on filming commercials and/or short 8 to 10 minute mini movies to supplement or promote the products they sell, so producing video content will continue to happen.

o   Stephen asked if they were going to do these commercials themselves or outsource to 3rd party.  Ricky replied that it would be both.  He went on to talk about their newest “project” and introduce ‘The Base’ – 4 studios with state-of-the-art filming equipment that they have opened up and are allowing young students to utilize free of charge.  He said that they have different settings (backdrops), all sorts of equipment, professional recording studio, editing studio, etc. – basically they have everything these students will need…they just need to come with a concept or idea that they want to pursue and also be either a college student or have experience in multi-media production – if they meet these 2 requirements, they can approach HKTV to request using their facilities.  Also, they don’t have to be filming anything related to HKTVmall – they can be filming for a competitor (i.e. rival supermarket selling same product / brand)…basically they don’t have to be working for HKTVmall.

o   Stephen asked is the reason why they are not allowed to “rent” the facilities is because of restrictions placed on them by the property?

§  Ricky’s response was yes, but most importantly, there are already studios out there that are even more “professional” and go the “commercialized” route in terms of renting out facilities for business purposes, so they don’t feel like they need to do the same thing as others. 

§  He said that even previously with the TV station, their hope was that they could cultivate and groom more younger people for HK – this has always been their goal / wish.  [TN:  This point was actually made quite clear in the book about HKTV that former staff wrote several years ago (which I bought and read back when it first came out but haven’t had the chance to write up my thoughts on).  I encourage everyone who wants to understand HKTV better to definitely read this book!]

o   Stephen then asked how big the studios were, to which Ricky responded:  There are 4 studios, with the largest one being 4000 sq ft and smallest is 400 sq ft.  Which studio the students are given access to depends on what they want to film – HKTV’s facility currently has backdrops for kitchen, family room, bedroom, office, etc.  They also have editing rooms and recording studios – currently gaming is popular, let’s say they want to do livestreaming of gaming, HKTV has strong computers, strong internet / broadband connection, etc. for them to record gaming videos.   

o   Stephen asked what is the utilization rate of the facilities currently, to which RW replied that every week the facilities are being used.

o   How should those interested reach out to HKTV? 

§  Those interested can go on HKTVmall’s website and contact them. 

§  Ricky also emphasized that they do not really “filter” the requests they get.  Basically, as long as they fit the criteria that were set  out – must be college grad within certain number of years (2 to 8 years but he doesn’t remember for sure) or currently in college OR they have experience in multimedia production of some sort (i.e. Youtuber, social media personality, etc.). 

§  Of course, it makes sense that they are not going to just open it up to anyone – it must be people who are truly interested and not just fooling around.  

o   Ricky had mentioned earlier that they have produced video content related to the products they are selling currently – is there any particular limit in terms of how much content will be produced?

§  Ricky’s response:  They are currently doing this [filming content related to products] already.  Currently, they have 2,700 businesses selling products through their HKTVmall e-commerce site -- many of these businesses have asked them to produce content to help promote their products.  These productions are both in-house as well as ones where they collaborate with outside parties. 

2) Since Stephen is there and helping ATV with hosting programs currently, is there any chance of Stephen or ATV collaborating with Ricky’s e-commerce platform?
o   [TN:  This question was actually never answered, though I guess in a sense, it really wasn’t much of a question in the first place.]

Last segment:  Since they don’t have time to take all listeners’ calls, the hosts decided to ask a few generic questions that many audiences wanted to know about.

-          Ricky had said earlier (in part 1 segment) that “if HKTV had been granted a license back then, the subsequent 4 years would’ve been 4 of the most glorious / brilliant years that the HK television industry has seen in decades.”  This obviously didn’t happen for HKTV, but two new TV stations DID enter the market.  How do you (Ricky) view the TV landscape (industry) currently?

o   Ricky clarified that first of all, he’s not saying that if HKTV had gotten a license back then, they would’ve come out on top.  What he’s saying is that with them being present as a formidable competitor/challenger, it would’ve changed the landscape in terms of the industry seeing greater room for improvement overall, but especially the “big station” (referring to TVB).  Stephen Chan said that he absolutely agrees with this. [TN:  Haha…Stephen definitely should know given his previous position as GM at TVB].

o   He said that TVB already has a set audience pool, established revenue streams and market share, historical foundation, etc. so of course they will naturally be better than us (HKTV) in terms of ratings, production process, etc.  In essence, we (HKTV) became the “catalyst” that pushed TVB into action in the areas where they were most deficient / struggling.

o   As far as Ricky’s thoughts on today’s TV landscape:

§  The 2 new stations coming in are huge corporations in HK currently so from a financial perspective, they should definitely have the means -- however at the end of the day, it’s not really about the money but rather do they have the heart to do it.

§  Ricky feels that doing television is NOT like a business in the traditional sense – rather, it’s actually a form of art.  Using the big station (TVB) as an example --  Sir Run Run Shaw was able to find such success in building his film and television empire because he truly did have the passion (heart) for it.  Run Run Shaw loved watching movies and was very diligent about it – he had his own movie theater at home and watched movies every single day.  Also, even when he was 90 years old, he still went into work every single day without fail.  This shows how much heart he truly had for it – he didn’t treat it as a mere business where he’ll invest $1 and hope to earn $2. 

§  Ricky had this advice for would-be entrepreneurs interested in going into television:  if your mentality is to invest X dollars in the hopes of earning X dollars back, you are destined to fail.   

o   The host then brought up the fact that the 2 new TV stations (ViuTV and Fantastic Television) so far haven’t really made too many of their own in-house produced series.  Could that be one of the problems? 

§  Ricky said that when he first started, he also didn’t have any previous experience making movies or TV series – the question is really whether you have a passion for it or not.  He said that he has always loved watching TV series and watching movies, which is what spurred his interest in creating a TV station. At the end of the day, boils down to whether you are truly interested in it and want to do it.  If you don’t like movies / television or have no interest in it, yet still you go into the film/television business, then you are purely a “financial investor” – someone who is just throwing money into something thinking it will earn money back.  Honestly though, when it comes to money, the bank has a lot of it – in order to manage the business well, it takes more than just money.   He emphasized that regardless of whether it’s television, movies, even radio, there has to be a passion for it because it’s that passion that motivates and drives them.   

§  Using himself as an example --  in doing e-commerce, it is because he has a passion for it and sees it as his mission in life, which drives (motivates) him to wake up at 7am every morning to start his day. 

§  Every occupation has its problems and challenges.  His advice to everyone is not to treat your job like it is merely a job, but rather treat it as an important part of your life.  Ask yourself how you can do the best job possible, put in the best effort possible.  Also ask yourself if it is something you are truly passionate about.

o   Ricky Wong had said during his announcement that currently there are already a lot of options for consumers when it comes to television.  Does he think it satisfies audiences needs currently?  Is there truly an effective amount of competition?  What is his take on this?

§  In terms of competition, he said it’s never about having an “effective” amount of competition.  Competition should always be open and limitless.  The government in the beginning actually had the right idea in that they were encouraging an unlimited number of licenses because they felt that having more people with the heart for doing television was beneficial for free competition – the policy was absolutely clear and correct. 

§  As for the 2 new stations, he said that they are still new and we should give them time to organize and fix whatever problems they may have.  He said that if they are willing to invest so much money / time / resources into TV station, he believes they do have the heart to do it.

The interview ended with the basic message being the importance of effective competition and the need for opportunities to be given in any venture, whether it’s e-commerce business or television station.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

CRHK Radio Interview with Ricky Wong -- PART 1

This is an interview that Ricky Wong actually did back on 3/29 – two days after he made the official announcement about HKTV giving up on getting a free-to-air TV license and also that they are withdrawing from the television business. (In case anyone missed that announcement, you can read about it here.)

Due to time constraints on my side, I wasn’t able to recap the interview until recently so this is only being posted now, nearly a month later.  My apologies for the delay but part of it too was that I wanted to take my time with the recap on this one, since this will likely be one of the last times that HKTV is discussed in the capacity of a “TV station," so in a sense, this is my "last hurrah" for HKTV (as we knew it at least).

Note that for this post, instead of commenting on the interview before or after the recap, I decided to incorporate my commentary throughout the interview instead.  My comments are the ones that say ‘TN’ inside the brackets (which I highlighted in BLUE below).  For those who don't want to read my commentary (and I know there are some out there who don't, which I'm fine with), just skip all the sections in BLUE).

Enjoy and feel free to comment below!


CRHK radio program:
On A Clear Day (在晴朗的一天出發)

Hosts:  Stephen Chan (陳志雲), Chan Chung (陳聰), Yeung Lok San (楊樂笙)

Guest:  Ricky Wong (王維)

Date of broadcast: 03/29/18


-          Stephen Chan kicked off the interview with a pretty clever introduction:  “Hong Kong is a place that’s very unique:  our pineapple buns have no pineapple in them, our ‘chicken tail’ (cocktail) buns have no chicken tails in them, and our HKTV is actually not a television station!  We have with us today HKTV’s chairman Ricky Wong.” [TN:  I actually chuckled at that intro, lol.]

-          So with HKTV’s official announcement, Stephen asked Ricky to share what his feelings are at this moment – does he feel as though a huge burden has finally been lifted?   When did he decide that he finally had to “wake up” from this television dream?

o   Ricky Wong said that they started really thinking about it last year (2017), as there are different shareholders they need to answer to within the company, plus the auditors were starting to ask them as well what the plans were.

o   This is why they made the announcement earlier in the year that they had to re-assess the situation with the company and decide whether they will continue on the television path.

o   True to their word, they did an internal re-assessment and looked at the following factors:  external as well as business environment (landscape of television environment currently – for example, HK already has 3 free-to-air TV stations now), audiences’ tastes and choices, HKTV’s own internal resources, etc. – after reviewing all of these factors, they came to the conclusion that the best option was to withdraw.

-          Stephen asked if Ricky could clarify something for him, as last time the former Secretary for Commerce and Development Greg So (蘇錦) [TN: Who was famously given the undesirable task of announcing the government's decision to deny HKTV's license] went on their radio program and when asked about HKTV’s license application, Greg So claimed that there were still some “answers” that they were waiting for from Ricky Wong.  “Is it true that he asked you (Ricky) something but you didn’t answer him or was there nothing worth answering in the first place?”

o   Ricky said:  "I will only say one thing – there was nothing more to answer."  He said that since they have made the decision to withdraw, he doesn’t want to dwell on the back and forth in terms of ‘did they truly answer’ or ‘did they not answer’.

o   Ricky said that he actually DID answer whatever it was that Greg So was asking, it’s just that it probably wasn’t the answer they were looking for.

o   To illustrate his point of what went down between him and Greg So, Ricky gave the following example:  Let’s say that you are applying for a job at a certain company.  You already wrote a letter 8 years ago expressing interest in the position, however instead of replying back with a request for interview, the company keeps asking you various questions – where did you graduate from?  Do you have a degree?  What type of work experience do you have? – you answer these questions, but then the company asks the same questions again, except in a different way.  You answer them again.  Then they ask you – so now that 8 years have passed, has anything changed with you?  After you answer them, they keep cycling through the same questions.  2 years later – so another 2 years have passed, has anything changed with you?  The company could keep delaying it by continuing to ask every couple months / years if anything has changed.  At this point, you are fed up and say – forget it, what’s the point of continuing to answer these types of questions? No use in continuing to delay things…

-          Stephen then asked about the change in government and what effect that had.  He said Ricky mentioned in his announcement about waiting just short of a decade already -- some citizens feel that HKTV already waited 8 years, why not continue to wait out another 2 years (to round out the decade) because with the change in government, perhaps there would be a “turning point”?

o   Ricky very frankly answered that he doesn’t see any “turning point.”  To clarify, he didn’t feel that there would be any “turning point” specifically related to their application for a license.

o   He said that they can’t stay in a “holding pattern” indefinitely – it has to end at some point.  Ok, so even if they were to wait – let’s fast forward to 2 years later, waited another 2 years, but still no license…could then say why not wait 2 more years?  Another 12 years? 15 years?  Something that has a start needs to have an ending point…

-          Stephen then asked – so then in your (HKTV’s) assessment, even with the change in government, did you guys feel that the chance of getting a license was still very slim?  Was this one of the things you took into consideration when you decided to withdraw?

o   Ricky answered yes, we felt that when it came to being approved for a license, we didn’t see much chance that it would happen.

o   Stephen said that this thought is very different from what most ordinary citizens think – they feel that HKTV wasn’t able to get their license because of “one particular man” [previous Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying], but now that this man is out of the picture, the obstacle shouldn’t be as great right?  That’s not what you guys thought as well?

§  Ricky replied that he and his team considered many things when they made their decision to withdraw – i.e. probability of getting a license, internal resources (many of the people who worked for them previously -- whether artists, scriptwriters, directors, etc. -- had come from “big brother station” (TVB) and after HKTV was denied a license, some of these people already returned to that station, but an even bigger portion decided to go try their luck in Mainland), business environment, audiences tastes / habits – for example, very few audiences actually still sit in front of a television set to watch TV.)

§  In coming to their decision, they had to look at the big picture, look at all factors, didn’t want to just dwell on the government being to blame or whatnot.

§  Basically, the timing has passed already and the landscape has changed too much.

[TN:  At this point in the interview, I couldn’t help thinking how funny it was that EVERY SINGLE THING Ricky Wong had just said in the above sections (prospects of getting a license under the new government still dim, entire television landscape had changed, etc.) were the EXACT same things I’ve said in various discussion forums as well as in my own blog over the past 4 years.  While I must admit that it does feel good to be right, I will be honest and say that I was really hoping to be wrong this time around because of how much I supported HKTV as a viable alternative to TVB…]

-          Stephen then asked Ricky the 64 million dollar question – Looking back now, in hindsight, do you feel that the government denying you a license 4 years ago was actually a blessing in disguise?  Like you had said back then, you firmly believed that a free-to-air license was necessary in order to operate. So in other words, with all the changes in the industry currently, maybe you should consider yourself lucky that you didn’t get a license…

o   Ricky’s response: that type of thinking is wrong, absolutely wrong.  He still deeply believes that if HKTV had been granted a license back then, the subsequent 4 years would’ve been 4 of the most glorious / brilliant years that the HK television industry has seen in decades.

o   The reason he feels this way – back then, it wasn’t just him fighting the battle alone.  He had several hundred like-minded employees standing with him, supporting the same cause.   Also there were many advertisers who had pledged their support for HKTV as well as support from audiences.  Many of the younger folks in society were really motivated by what HKTV was able to do and had expressed that they wanted to be part of it.  He said that if HKTV had gotten the license, the past 4 years would’ve been a very memorable 4 years.

-          Stephen then went on to say – so it’s the government’s fault then?  We should have the government to thank for not getting those glorious 4 years?

o   Ricky’s response [TN:  I noticed there was a slight pause, so it seemed to me that Ricky was trying to think of the best way to put it without offending certain powers that be in government…] – “Well, the government is very big….but, uh, let’s not talk about the government…” to which Stephen said “but it’s the truth…if the government had granted the license back then, the industry would’ve seen major change (the ‘earth-shattering’ / major shakeup type of change)” which Ricky then responded “I would think so…”

-          Ricky then went on to clarify what he meant by major change – back then, what was most important wasn’t that investors were willing to throw a lot of money into the business – rather, what was important was that they [HKTV] had a group of passionate people with heart who all had the same goal of wanting to make the industry better…

o   Weren’t just talking about a few people – it was several hundred artists, 60-70 scriptwriters, 60 directors, around 600 to 700 people total – all people whom he felt were the industry’s brightest, people who were most willing to change for the better, who were most willing to try new things, embrace change…

o   Looking at the series they produced, though can’t say they were THE BEST, since compared to Hollywood, American series do surpass them, but for HK series, it was a huge change, very different from typical HK fare, whether from subject matter, creativity, production perspectives…

o   Ricky said that due to all this, if you ask him what his feelings are toward not getting a license, of course he will feel disappointed [TN:  implied because everyone’s efforts went to waste].  

-          So is there special meaning behind having Fantastic Television air the series “To Be or Not To Be” as the first series of yours on their station?  

o   Ricky said that he actually wasn’t the one who chose that series – Fantastic TV chose it.  He said they laid the 200+ hours of programming out in front of them and they chose what they wanted.

o   Stephen asked are they airing the series for free, to which Ricky replied that they do have a “commercial arrangement” with them but he can’t disclose any further details since it’s a business transaction.

o   Ricky said that if it were up to him, he would’ve actually preferred they air either “The Borderline” or “The Menu” first.

o   Stephen asked if it would only be 1 series, to which Ricky said no, it’s ALL of the series – he confirmed that the arrangement was for all series to air on Fantastic TV, though in what order he doesn’t know.

-          Now that the announcement has been made, has Ricky heard from any of his former staff what their thoughts / feelings are toward this news?

o   Ricky said that yesterday (3/28), a few of his former colleagues / staff messaged him on WhatsApp.  He said his first reaction was to apologize to those former staff.

o   He said the reason why he decided to arrange for their series to air on Fantastic TV is because he feels the cast and crew put in so much heart and effort back then to make those series, even knowing he didn’t have a license, they still took such a huge risk to work for him – a few people gave up the “safe harbor” they’d had for 10, 20 years and jumped ship over to their station to help them – he felt he has the obligation to fulfill the promise he made to them that those series will get the chance to air on a free-to-air television station.  He believes that any producer would want that for their staff and their series.

o   When he apologized, his colleagues told him that they actually wanted to thank him because they truly did learn a lot and the experience gave them the chance to see the potential that was out there

o   Some of them said that if it wasn’t for Ricky and HKTV, they wouldn’t have gotten the opportunities they currently have (whether filming in Mainland or other opportunities in HK).

o   RW also said that many of the cast and crew for “big brother” station’s current series were the same ones who had worked at HKTV previously….he also alluded to how the ones who returned to the “big brother” station were able to apply what they learned and change the way some of their series were made…

[TN:  Aha!  I had said this exact same thing in discussions with other fellow HKTV supporters, as I had noticed the past 2 years especially how much “copying” TVB had done of previous HKTV series / ideas / concepts, both directly and indirectly.  Here’s an excerpt of a comment I had written to one of the blog posts I wrote about HKTV:  I get so ticked off every time I think about TVB "copying" HKTV or those who left and went back taking what they learned and applying it. But at least with the latter, they were honest about applying what they learned so I can't really fault them too much… the ones that make my blood boil are the obvious copies but no acknowledgment whatsoever (i.e. Law Dis-order copying The Election, Come with Me copying Sexpedia, Stealing Seconds copying Doom+5, Blue Veins copying Love in Time, Big White Duel copying Hidden Faces, Our Unwinding Ethos copying Karma, that new Chan Bo Wah series copying Incredible Mama..). Of course we all know My Unfair Lady copied To Be or Not To Be and Line Walker 2 copied Borderline but at least with both those instances, we already knew from the producers (Chu King Kei and So Man Chung) that they would do so, since they publicly acknowledged that they were going to apply what they learned from HKTV. 

In addition to the above, I recently learned that the new Flying Tigers series from Shaw Brothers (TVB’s movie arm) supposedly has some car chase scenes reminiscent of the ones that were done in The Menu’s opening sequence…]

-          How about on opposite end?  Were there any colleagues who blamed you (Ricky)?

o   Ricky said that he is sure there are, but they were all polite enough not to say it directly to him.  He says the ones who reached out to him were likely the ones who understood him and how he was feeling.

-          How about citizens?  Did any citizens / audiences reach out?

o   Ricky said he didn’t hear back from any audiences and asked if they would be having a phone-in session later (Stephen took the opportunity to reiterate the phone number that listeners should call).

-          The hosts then asked Ricky if there was anything in particular he wanted to say to HK audiences.

o   Ricky’s message to audiences:  HK people can have a lot of different goals, different dreams. HK entertainment and culture are no doubt a huge part of those dreams – makes sense, as HK entertainment, whether movies, music, or television, did have its glory days back in previous decades such as 70s, 80s.  However, keep in mind that in addition to entertainment, HK is also known for other things, such as being a shopping paradise for example.  A lot of people ask Ricky (friends, reporters whom he has known for 20+ years) why hasn’t he retired yet, as he surely has made enough money to be able to just sit back and enjoy it now – short answer: it’s because of HKTV Mall.  He said that HK has already “lost” much of its entertainment (music, movie, television industries are all not what they used to be)…if  they were to lose shopping paradise as well, it would be a disaster.

o   People’s habits change along with their tastes.  Many people are looking more and more to doing their shopping online…of course, this won’t completely replace physical stores 100%, but currently HK lacks their own e-commerce option…imagine if 3 to 5 years from now, more and more young people go online to purchase majority of their goods and the only options they have are Mainland websites, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, U.S., etc.  HK people will start looking to overseas options for their shopping needs which would render HK shopping paradise obsolete and in turn would do irreparable harm to HK’s economy…

o   One of the missions of his current e-commerce project is to persuade more retailers to go online route with their businesses.

o   Stephen said that when it comes to e-commerce, HK market is so small though, won’t that affect things?  Ricky’s response – yes, but HK has to start somewhere even if it’s starting small.  Need to build up HK first, build it into a strong site, well-known site, once have name recognition, then others (overseas) would be more willing to purchase from them.

o   He said they are starting to see the effects now --- for example, he’s had some Mainlanders buy stuff at their stores because they recognize their name and know they are quality.

o   Ricky also compared the whole venture to TV series -- need to build up your own station first, build name recognition, build up local audiences, once you have that, then others will notice you…if you can’t even do your own stuff well, how do you expect others (overseas) to purchase from you? 

-          The hosts then asked Ricky – their free-to-air TV “project” lasted 8 years….how much time are they planning to give to this e-commerce venture?  Ricky’s response as follows:

o   E-commerce is very complicated, especially in HK

o   Already, they’ve made some changes in automation to improve efficiency – in the past, when they received an order, they would have staff running around in a 100,000 sq ft warehouse looking for each product on the list – this was a very manual process that of course wasted a lot of time and money.  Starting in March, they invested in automation where the staff don’t need to go hunt down the products anymore – the machines (robots?) will look for the product and bring it to them once located.

o   Even this is complicated because HK doesn’t have anyone who knows about these tools / machines or understands how to operate them (they had a lot of difficulty trying to hire engineers and technicians in HK who were familiar enough with these tools to even be able to install them).  Aside from the HK airport, HKTV is only the 2nd organization to utilize these machines in HK…there are currently no offices for this company in HK (all offices are in Shenzhen, Shanghai, Singapore).  As a result, they (HKTV) had to hire people from China and Singapore to go over to their facility to install the machines.  Ricky said he couldn’t believe how behind HK was in technology but at the same time, he also sees this as an opportunity – an opportunity for him to experiment with this and bring this to HK consumers, bring something good to HK.

o   They want to recruit more students / young people so that these future generations can have a better understanding of technology, engineering and hopefully utilize this information for the betterment of HK.

[TN:  These lasts 2 segments prove that Ricky Wong is ever the consummate businessman but also shows how smart he is.  I’ve worked in the corporate business world for over 20 years myself so I can definitely relate to what Ricky is saying in terms of the business aspect and the importance of automation, innovation, etc.  His thought process on e-commerce makes a lot of sense as well and shows that his business acumen is razor sharp!  I honestly feel that it was a wise choice for Ricky to abandon the TV station concept and instead go back to what he does best – taking something that others haven't done before in that market and turning it into a successful business!]

-          In the last segment (to part 1), the hosts asked Ricky about HKTV mall initially being established to “supplement” the TV side of things.  Or was it the other way around?

o   RW clarified that back when they purchased their mobile license, one of the biggest differences with that license from the free-to-air TV one was that it allowed for 24 hour advertising.  5 years ago, they analyzed the model in Korea – they have 4 TV stations that are dedicated exclusively to “TV shopping” [TN: kind of like Home Shopping Network that we have here in the U.S.]…those 4 stations at that time were already doing 100,000,000,000 HKD worth of business, which was huge.  Ricky wanted to bring this model to HK, whether in the form of TV shopping like Korea did or turn it into online/e-commerce route – so basically to answer the question, the “shopping” and “television” components were meant to complement each other.   Now there is only the “shopping” component left -- is it less effective then?  From what they can see, so far seems to be working….at the very least, when they didn’t get their license, they had an alternative path they could follow.

*** The above is recap of part 1 only.  Stay tuned for recap of Part 2, as there are quite a few interesting things that Ricky Wong talks about there (plus the audience call-in section, which was quite enlightening).  I am working on and should hopefully be posted up within the next day or two.***