Thursday, February 24, 2011

My ‘TVB Rant’ #7: New 'phenomenon' with TVB?

I wouldn't really call this a "rant", but rather something that I noticed recently about TVB programming that I felt was worthy of blogging about.

There has been an interesting phenomenon with TVB lately -- they've been premiering a few of their new series in HK and overseas (i.e. in the U.S.) at the same time -- which means that audiences in HK and overseas are able to watch the same series at the same time (well, same date, but not exactly same time slot, which makes sense due to time differences).

To understand why the above is so "interesting", let me give a little bit of background on how TVB works in terms of programming in HK and overseas. (Note that when I say "overseas", I am referring specifically to the U.S., since that is where I live).


HK's TVB channel (Jade):

TVB is a free-to-air television station in Hong Kong -- which means that it is a free channel that all households in HK can watch as long as they have a television. There is programming pretty much 24-7, with all the "brand new" series airing on weeknights and mostly news programs / variety shows / old series airing the rest of the time (throughout the day and late night). I've watched the TVB channel in HK many times and in my humble opinion, it's a really boring channel -- during the day, there is pretty much nothing to watch unless an old series that I like happens to the amount of news programs that comes on is extremely annoying (they intersperse news programs in there pretty much once every other hour). Of course, there is the occasional "special" program that comes on (such as awards shows or music specials) which may be of interest, but other than that, the "meat" of the programming is really between 8pm to 11pm HKT (approximately) on weeknights, since that is the timeslot where the new series usually air.

The way it usually works is that they start off with a sitcom at 8pm (I believe "Show Me the Happy" is on right now), then 2 new series usually air after it -- one at 8:30pm (currently, the series airing in this timeslot is "Only You") and another at 9:30pm (currently it's "The Rippling Blossom"). Sometimes, there is another series that may air at 10:30, but this is usually due to a special occasion (i.e. the miniseries "Dropping by Cloud Nine" aired last week in this timeslot for Valentine's Day).

So pretty much, prior to 8pm and after 11pm, there is not much to watch...and honestly speaking, with the declining quality in TVB's series the last couple years, it's possible that even the 8pm to 11pm timeslot is not worth watching either (depending on the series that happen to be airing during that timeslot, of course)......

If you want to see some of the special programs (such as those interview shows that were on previously -- i.e. Be My Guest or Big Four Up) and other specially designed programming, you would have to subscribe to TVB's pay channels (sort of like subscribing to Cable channels here in the U.S.).

TVB's satellite stations in the U.S. (JadeWorld):

If you live in the U.S., you can still get TVB's channels via satellite (you would have to pay for it of course) -- the one we subscribe to is the Jadeworld package, which includes 6 channels that are specifically designed for TVB's overseas audience. I actually think these satellite channels are WAY BETTER than the free TVB channel that HKers get, as there is so much more programming available -- plus we get to watch programs that are usually only available on TVB's pay channels in HK (so those who only have the regular "free" channel don't get to watch these programs).

With the satellite package, there are pretty much 3 regular TVB channels, 2 Mandarin channels, and 1 channel with content from Taiseng (TVB's distributor here in the U.S.). On the 3 regular channels, there is a good variety of old (like 80s/90s) and semi-old (after 2000s) series that come on throughout the day (I think the last time I counted, there were approximately 10 series airing in 1 day) -- so there are definitely ALOT more choices than the HK TVB channel has. We do get to watch the 'newer' series as well, but usually we have to wait a year for those (for example, 2009's anniversary series "Beyond the Realm of Conscience" and "Born Rich" just finished airing here at the end of last year, around November/December 2010). There are also news programs and variety shows, etc. interspersed throughout the day, but not as much compared to HK's channel -- plus we get the choice of 3 channels, so if a news program happens to be airing on 1 channel, we can flip through the other 2 channels and watch the series or variety show that may be airing on those channels. And I love how we get all the HK pay channel programs (i.e.: Entertainment News, interview shows, etc.) as part of the package, without having to pay anything extra.


So back to my original statement about the "interesting" phenomenon with TVB lately -- based on the above, it makes sense that the series currently airing in HK right now (2011) wouldn't be available for us overseas audiences until 2012....BUT much to my surprise, TVB started a new thing this week by premiering certain series simultaneously in both HK and here in the U.S. (I say "certain" because I'm not 100% sure if they are going to do this with all new series going forward or just with select ones). So on 2/21, when the series "Only You" premiered in HK, it also premiered simultaneously here in the U.S. same day. And it looks like they are doing the same thing with the series "Grace Under Fire", which is scheduled to premiere on 3/7 (I just saw the trailer for it on the channel that will be broadcasting it here). This means that we will be watching these series at the same time that the HK audiences are watching them (give or take a day due to the time zone differences) this is definitely a FIRST for TVB, as they usually only do simultaneous broadcasts like this for special shows such as anniversary galas, singing contests, awards shows, holiday specials, etc., but definitely NOT for series....

I actually have not heard anything specifically from TVB on why they decided to simultaneously broadcast series now, but I have my "speculations" on why they probably went this route (again, these are purely my speculations based on what I know about TVB and the trends nowadays)....

The main reason (I think) is because the overseas / international market is not as lucrative for TVB anymore as it once was, since there are so many choices nowadays in terms of series (i.e. TV series from Korea, Taiwan, Japan continue to increase in popularity), plus the on-line streaming of TVB's series is so commonplace now (I personally can't stand watching TV series and movies on a computer, so I'm probably one of the few who actually still watches stuff only on TV or on DVD/VCD/video tape). Also, the illegal pirating of TVB's series continues to be extremely prevalent here (just take a stroll in the DVD shops in Chinatown or Monterey Park and you will see exactly what I mean)....those who know me know that I hate watching "bootleg" versions of stuff, so I actually have to go very much out of the way to find original versions of the series to watch (lately, I've had to resort to buying directly from the distributor Taiseng...but that's another story altogether).

Also the advances in technology (specifically the popularity of the Internet) have given rise to many on-line forums and websites dedicated to discussing TVB’s series. Of course, very few of these sites are dedicated to talking about “old” series (meaning from the 80s/90s), which is understandable, since we ARE in the 21st century now – plus most of the younger generation (those born in the 90s and later) living overseas (outside of HK) nowadays rarely watch the “old stuff” – it’s the new series starring the current idols that they are primarily interested in.

So if the “new” series are only available to watch in HK (either on TVB’s Jade Channel or on their website), where are the overseas audiences going to go to watch these same series (and subsequently discuss them with friends on-line)? Well, unless they physically move to HK (which is definitely not going to happen), the only other options (I would think) are watching via various (usually unauthorized) websites on-line or buying a cheap bootleg version at their local Chinatown.

To be honest, there is really no way for TVB to stop people from doing the above (downloading / watching on-line or buying bootleg versions), since it’s so prevalent and widespread (it’s pretty much an everyday occurrence in society now)… what is the most logical thing to do? IMO, the most logical thing is for TVB to voluntarily make the content available to as many overseas audiences as possible via their own legitimate sources and therefore hopefully discourage people from going the ‘unconventional’ route. And this seems exactly like what TVB is trying to do with the simultaneous airing of new series recently…

So in conclusion (sorry for the long “rant”), it does seem like TVB is starting to change their marketing strategy and reach out to more overseas audiences. In terms of their reasons for doing this – well, I could sit here and speculate all day about it, but then that would be overkill…so pretty much I am just going to sit tight and see what happens.

Lastly, the ironic thing is that I am blogging about this ‘phenomenon’, yet it actually doesn’t affect me much because I’m already a member of Taiseng’s DVD club – which means that I already get all the new series sent to me on DVD directly from TVB’s distributor at the same time the series air in HK… in a sense, whether the new series air on TV simultaneously or not doesn’t matter to me, since I’ll get the series on DVD within a week and can watch it later on my own time if I want….


I’m currently watching “Only You” and to be honest, it’s a bit boring….yes, there are a lot of “guest stars” and it’s interesting to see who the story is going to be about next, but unfortunately, that’s really not enough to spark my interest. Hopefully the series gets interesting soon because if not, I may abandon it altogether.

As for the other series that will be airing simultaneously – “Grace Under Fire” – I actually have no interest in watching it. I’m not too keen on the cast first of all (except for maybe John Chiang) and second, it’s about martial arts legend Wong Fei Hung again – honestly, there have been so many WFH series and movies over the past 3 decades that I am so sick and tired of it. Lastly, the female lead is gymnast Liu Xuan and in watching the preview, looks like her voice is dubbed…the series doesn’t look appealing at all.


  1. The whole time I was wondering what 'Grace Under Fire' is until I got to the end, LOL! So they re-named it and is finally going to air? I might not watch it since I'm sick of that time period. Though I do like watching martial arts stuffs.

    And I have to agree with you in the change of tactic. Have to do it or they would lose even more. I think most people would opt for the real version, which the quality would be better with the picture, etc rather than the bootleg or whatever else.

  2. Coming from a 90's kid point of view and having almost all of my ABC friends watching TVB, I can say that this "phenomenon" doesn't make any difference to the younger generation. All of my friends either stream or download anyways, and they even let their parents/family watch the downloaded version either on a TV or through the computer. If anything, you can spend a few bucks for the whole series in Chinatown. And plus, most people I know don't even pay for their cable/satellite channels (they usually share it with someone with a box or something or steal neighbors).
    Most importantly, we don't like the new series! We prefer oldies (well, early 90's kids anyway, can't speak for the YOUNGER generation) because we are sane enough to know much recent series s-u-c-k! lol

    P.S. - ughh, kevin cheng! yuck.

  3. @DTLCT: Haha...yup, when I first saw the English name, I was scratching my head too until I realized it was that "Female Fist" series...I wonder how they came up with the new name? Hey, isn't that the same name of a 90s sitcom here in the U.S.? That's why I got so confused at first, because I know I've heard that name before somewhere....hmmm, I wonder if they got copyright release for it (probably not, since it IS TVB after all).

    Yea, well, apparently I'm the weird one because when I asked around, no one buys the originals anymore, it seems...

    This just came to mind...could it also be that the change in tactic is related to the change in management over at TVB? I remember them saying something about expanding the international for thought, I guess...

  4. @tvbaddict: Thanks for the 90s perspective! Or rather, the 'early 90s' perspective -- glad to hear that there are still some sane 'after 90s' people out there! (Because alot of the people I've been talking to fell into the 'other' category that I mentioned in my

    Haha..interesting that the 'phenomenon' doesn't make a difference to you guys either! I guess that's sort of why I mentioned at the end about "sitting tight and watching what happens" -- because the more I think about it, the more I think that in the long run, their new tactic may not make much of a difference...perhaps it's one of those "too little, too late" type of situations?

    Well, I'll definitely keep everyone updated on what happens down the road, as so far, I have not seen the 'ads' for any other series that are airing simultaneously...though I'm sure they're going to continue to do it, just not sure for how long....

  5. That is interesting... I'd like to hear more about Taiseng and their relationship w/ TVB. And from what I once heard, the unscrupulous business practices? Coming from a non-Chinese perspective, we rarely ever saw anything real. It was all 4th-5th generation VHS tapes back then. Now that whole market of renting dubbed TVB series has died out. (At least I think it has, IDK I don't really pay attention anymore.) My focus is on the old series and it's just a whole other headache trying to track them down.

    Regarding those shops in Monterey Park - (Hi neighbor. I'm in Orange County.) I got ripped off at a couple stores up there. Ugh.

  6. @retrotvb: Taiseng is TVB's exclusive distributor in the U.S. and has been for many years -- so pretty much if you are trying to purchase VCDs or DVDs of TVB series her in the U.S., if it doesn't have both TVB's and Taiseng's logos on it, then it's a fake...

    Unscrupulous business practices? You mean Taiseng or TVB? I actually never heard about that -- at least not in reference to the relationship between these 2 parties, so can't really comment on it....

    I definitely hear ya regarding the prevalence of 'fake' versions of stuff -- but I actually feel that it's way more prevalent now than it was in the 80s and 90s (probably because of the advances in technology). And yes, the old series are absolutely difficult to find --in fact, TVB is not even releasing old series on DVD much anymore -- their focus is releasing all the new stuff on DVD because majority of the people (it seems) wants to see the news stuff rather than the old (except for people like you and me of I guess I'm a bit luckier in that I started watching TVB series in the 80s, so I got a chance to watch (and own) most of the series / shows from that generation and forward (and even some of the older ones from the 70s)...most of mine are old VHS tapes as well, though I also have VCDs and DVDs.

    Oh yay -- another neighbor (I'm in Los Angeles)! Well, I pretty much don't buy anything from Monterey Park and Chinatown anymore -- I only buy from 1 store in Chinatown that I've frequented for over 15 years already and have a good relationship with (the only store I know that has original series)...and of course I've also gotten ripped off a few times in the beginning -- but not anymore...

  7. Well with the changing times TVB is trying to make a change too. I think they realized that TVB series for rentals don't have market anymore. Plus TVB may want to keep up with Korean, Taiwanese and Japanese series which got released in another country almost simultaneously with the origin.

    Only You looks boring to me. Grace Under Fire looks boring too and who the heck is this female lead that TVB is pushing to us? I don't understand why TVB make a series of this fighting genre again because it won't do well in HK but I might watch just because it's been a long time since I watched a TVB fighting series - an unpopular genre within TVB. The male actors are also not bad, just the gymnast girl bugged me.

  8. @zzxyz: Agreed. Though it doesn't make much of a difference to me, it makes sense from a business perspective that TVB would go that route...

    I would definitely recommend 'passing' on "Only You", as it is an absolutely BORING series! I've watched 5 episodes so far and barely have a clue on what happened in those 5 eps because I pretty much fell asleep while watching....and this series is supposed to be 30 episodes! Really? At the pace this series is going, I think I would have died of boredom before I even reach episode 10!! I actually should have known that I probably wouldn't like this series much because it's produced by Amy Wong (she also produced "Burning Flame 3", "The Seventh Day", "Ultimate Crime Fighter", "Last One Standiing", etc.) -- so far, I have yet to like any of her series (and I've watched quite a few of them) because most of them tend to be BORING (including the 4 series I listed above -- I remember I had to struggle to get through each of them)! For my own sanity, I'm pretty much giving up on this series...I've got better things to do than sit through another boring series!

    I will probably 'pass' on "Grace Under Fire" as well -- looks boring to me (the male cast sounds ok, but female cast -- bleh!). Plus I don't care for that genre anyway -- like I said in my post, I'm sick of that genre now...

  9. During the big boom of VHS rentals, dubbed episodes were cut down to 35 minutes so that the series could be stretched out onto more tapes to make an extra buck. If I'm not mistaken, Taiseng was responsible for this (I don't think TVB had anything to do with it). Totally shady. And if that's not bad enough, some of the DVD's today still contain truncated episodes. IT REALLY UPSETS ME. I should be ranting about this on my own blog. LOL.

    Some of the fake stuff looks so real. It's crazy. There's one tiny store I know of that carries real products. I can't remember the name but it's in a shopping center with a big food court. I know that really narrows it down! I'll probably check out your store sometime, if you don't mind me asking where it is?? (You can email me.)

  10. @retrotvb:

    Oh, really? I didn't know that happened with VHS tapes (all of the ones we have are original complete versions, luckily) -- but that is EXACTLY what happened with the VCDs....that's why I stopped buying VCDs years ago and refuse to buy them even now. And this is also the reason why whenever I buy DVDs of TVB series nowadays, I ALWAYS watch them before I put them away (even if I've seen the series already) -- because I want to make sure I get what I paid for and stuff isn't cut out.

    Oooh, so Taiseng was behind all that? Hmmm, interesting....if that's true, then definitely very shady!! But I'm actually surprised that they would do that -- being TVB's sole distributor in the U.S. and all -- because from what I've heard, TVB has very strict guidelines when it comes to this kind of stuff and does not allow for much flexibility in "messing" with their stuff (at least not legally, anyway). That's why I always thought it was TVB that was cutting all the episodes and such.....

    OMG, after reading all of your comments so far, I think we are actually on the exact same wavelength on alot of issues (which is rare, since alot of people don't agree with me when it comes to stuff related to TVB or HK entertainment!) And the funny thing is, we share some of the same experiences as well! LOL! I'll probably stop by your blog later on and link you up (if you don't mind, that is).

    I'll email you the store information separately....

  11. Well here's the could have been the company "under" Taiseng, the one that they contracted to do all the dubbing. To this day I still don't know who, what, or where those people are. Very mysterious. And how closely did TVB monitor their overseas/foreign language market anyway? If you ever saw some of our rental shops, it couldn't have been that close. Not an original tape in sight.

    It's been sooo fun talking/reminiscing with you. :)

    My email is retrotvb(at)

  12. Oh one other thing I forgot - VCDs are the absolute worst! I'll take VHS over VCD anyday. Hell I'll even take laserdisc and I never even owned those.

  13. @retrotvb: It sure doesn't seem that TVB monitors their overseas market much due to all the rampant bootlegging going on...I think the "strictness" may just be with Taiseng then because of the contractual obligations probably.

    It's been fun talking with you as well! I love reminiscing about the "good old days" of TVB! I will definitely be visiting your blog often!

    Btw, I just sent you an email...

    P.S.: Yup, I sure learned my lesson with VCDs...never touching those again!!!!

  14. I have just finished watching Grace Under Fire and have mixed feelings. I thought that John Chiang was just not that good as Wong Fei Hung and I thoroughly disliked his screen wife. I felt she was too short and totally unsuitable for the role. They should have picked someone older and taller. Maybe it was because her fighting skills were quite good and nowadays there are not that many actresses who are good looking as well as be able to fight well. I thought the love interest beween them was very slap dash and not in depth. It could have been a far better drama if only the script was better. Although I quite like Bosco Wong, I just didn't think he fitted that role either. Anyone who disagrees with me, please feel free to comment.

    From Peaches

  15. @Peaches: I sort of watched Grace Under Fire (as I've been doing with most of the newer TVB series the past 10 years or so, I only watch parts of the series and don't really bother paying attention or watching the whole thing unless I like the series) and I wasn't too keen on it. The only reason why I watched the parts I did was because of the veteran actors (Law Lok Lam, Ngok Wah, John Chiang, Dominic Lam) -- but since they "killed" all 4 of them off the series, I pretty much stopped watching because there was no reason to anymore.

    I also questioned the relationship between Liu Xuan and John Chiang in the series and was sort of surprised that they killed John off, since he's supposed to be one of the main characters -- but then I realized that the series was really about Liu Xuan and not John, so wasn't surprised anymore after that. I also didn't think that TVB handled their relationship that well because it was so abrupt and there was pretty much "zero" chemistry....overall, I didn't like the series.