Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My ‘TVB Rant’ # 15: The Impact of TVB’s Continuously Shrinking Talent Pool

I haven't done a rant about TVB in awhile, so figured it was time for another update...LOL!

Not sure how many of you have been keeping up with HK entertainment news lately -- despite my busy schedule, I've been trying to keep up the best I can (though not as 'religiously' as before)....those who have been paying attention to the news probably know that there have been alot of personnel changes at TVB lately. Normally, this might not be 'big news', but to long-time, die-hard HK TV fans (aka TVB fans), the recent changes could have a significant impact on the direction of the TV industry in the years to come.

For those only interested in the short version -- well, basically, tons of people are leaving (or have left) TVB in recent years (recent meaning the last 2-3 years or so) for various reasons, but mostly because they were being mistreated or neglected (or because those who left finally 'woke up' and realized that their careers will continue to remain stale if they stay with TVB).

For those interested in the long version -- READ ON!

Let's start with the 'big gun' himself, TVB's founder and Chairman, Sir Run Run Shaw. It was recently announced (like last month) that Sir Run Run (aka Uncle Six) will be stepping down from his position as TVB Chairman and current vice-Chairman Norman Leung will take over. To be very honest, this news means nothing to me because 1) it was already anticipated, since Uncle Six is already over 100 years old – people seriously don’t expect him to still be actively running TVB, do they?? 2) Uncle Six hasn't been involved in running TVB for at least a decade already -- his wife Mona Fong has pretty much been running the company on his behalf for many years (and doing a lousy job, in my opinion)....with the announcement of him stepping down, they were pretty much just making things 'official' (yea, tell me something I didn’t already know would happen). So basically, my reaction to this news is…..whatever…

The other 'big news' in terms of management is that TVB's charismatic (and popular) GM Stephen Chan has resigned in favor of 'fulfilling his dream of studying abroad' (hmmm, that's an interesting excuse). To be honest, I'm actually not surprised that SC would take this step, given everything he went through with the corruption case earlier on and basically being left out to dry by none other than his employer TVB (not to mention having his name dragged through the mud by pretty much everyone in HK in the process). Also, with the way TVB treated him during those months when he was suspended from his duties pending investigation, I was actually surprised that he agreed to go back and work for them again in the first place (I'm pretty sure there was some political thing going on there). So I guess you could say that SC resigning doesn't have any impact on me either (as long as that dreaded witch Virginia Lok doesn't take his place -- now if she were to get promoted to fill that position, then that would be a different story!).

Oh, by the way – another key management person who left TVB earlier this year (or was it last year? Can’t remember exactly….) was long-time director of variety / non-drama programs Ho Lai Chuen. He left to work for nowTV (one of the 3 companies granted free-to-air TV licenses) and is now one of the big executives over there. Supposedly, he left TVB on good terms (at least that’s what the public was told), but after working at TVB for 30 years, it’s sort of hard for me to believe that he would decide to leave and go to a competitor just like that if there weren’t issues between him and the company (TVB) in the first place. Anyway, he’s better off at nowTV in my opinion because I honestly feel that out of the 3 ‘new’ stations that will come into play next year, nowTV has the most potential (they already have some great programs being produced currently).

As most of you know, there was an aggressive ‘poaching’ movement by City Telecom’s (CTI) Ricky Wong earlier in the year – his company is one of the 3 that have been granted licenses to operate free-to-air TV stations next year. Personally, I don’t have much respect for the guy because after seeing the tactics he employed in trying to poach a rival station’s employees, he just doesn’t come across as a very honorable person to me (plus I had heard bad things about him back when he was an executive at ATV). Anyway, I mention Ricky Wong and CTI because he will be one of the major players next year and there are actually a few former TVB artists who will be jumping ship to his company (more on that later).


Now that we’ve looked at the significant changes in management, let’s look next at the behind-the-scenes people: the producers and scriptwriters.

I’m sure we all know that TVB lost one of its best scriptwriters, Cheung Wah Biu, last year – he was responsible for writing the scripts for many of the highly rated and highly acclaimed series over the past few years, with the award-winning “Rosy Business” and “No Regrets” being amongst his last works. After leaving TVB, Cheung Wah Biu went to Taiwan to work for entertainment mogul Jimmy Lai’s Next Media empire. There were rumors of CWB possibly returning to TVB earlier in the year, but those rumors turned out to be false (which is perfectly fine with me, since they were wasting his talent anyway).

My understanding is that TVB also lost other scriptwriters as well, but I can’t remember the names at this moment. However, my assumption is that the number of behind-the-scenes scriptwriters and copy editors who left must have been significant because it caused TVB to change their policy to allow scriptwriters to sign ‘per series’ contracts rather than long term ones (this was a ‘privilege’ normally reserved for artists) – plus many of the behind-the-scenes personnel ended up getting pay raises along with early contract renewals.

In terms of producers, that’s actually one area where TVB will be suffering a tremendous loss next year with the departure of 3 ‘golden’ producers – the husband and wife couple of Lau Kar Ho and Mui Siu Ching (who are heading to nowTV in early 2012) and also Lee Tim Sing (who will most likely be retiring).

First, let’s talk about Lau Kar Ho and Mui Siu Ching. LKH and MSC said that they are leaving because they want to expand their opportunities (especially in the Mainland market) – I’m sure that’s true, but part of me thinks that there is also more to it than that. The couple has been with TVB since the 1980s and throughout the past 3 decades, have produced many hit series (in fact, most of the grand productions and anniversary series from the past few years were produced by them). With their status as ‘golden’ producers, they are 2 of the most well-known producers at TVB, so for them to leave suddenly after so many years, there has to be something that triggered it. We probably will never know the truth, but as far as I’m concerned, their departure is definitely TVB’s loss.

As for Tim Gor – well, let’s just say that I’ve always been fond of Tim Gor’s series and he’s one of the reasons why I’ve still been watching some TVB series in recent years. Tim Gor has been with TVB since the late 60s and was pretty much there when the company itself started – throughout the past 4 decades, he has worked in various positions at TVB, even becoming the Head of Production at one point. Since he also used to be a scriptwriter himself, he is very much involved when it comes to writing the scripts for the series he produces (he has a scriptwriting team that writes for him, but he personally does a lot of review and editing of the script). In addition to his numerous contributions to TVB the past 40 years (he produced and wrote many great series), he was also responsible for bringing us some of the past 3-4 years’ most acclaimed series (for example – “A Fistful of Stances”, “Rosy Business, “No Regrets”, etc.).

Tim Gor’s latest series “Bottled Passion” (which is currently in its finale week) is a great series. I won’t go into detail about the series itself, since I will be doing a review on it some time next week – I will say though that BP is actually one of the few TVB series from this entire DECADE that I actually like. The most recent article that came out today stated that BP’s ratings are suffering badly because it was placed in the dreaded December ‘cannon fodder’ timeslot instead of the original October ‘golden’ timeslot as previously planned (it was pulled from the October timeslot and replaced with “Super Snoops” last minute). For TVB to push the series aside in favor of that dumb anniversary series "Super Snoops" (which was so stupid, I felt like I lost brain cells just watching the first episode) is truly pathetic!! If they would have kept BP in the original October timeslot instead of in the cannon fodder December timeslot, its ratings would probably not have suffered so badly (though to be honest, I really don't care anymore at this point because everyone knows that HK TV ratings mean absolutely nothing!). If I were Tim Gor, I would be pissed as well! When Tim Gor retires next year, I am truly going to miss him!


Lastly, let’s look at the artists who have left TVB recently (in the last 2 years alone)…some of the more significant ones include Bowie Lam, Wong Hei, Steven Ma, Joe Ma, Charmaine Sheh, Bernice Liu (just to name a few). Bowie and Wong Hei have both signed with a management company affiliated with nowTV, so that means their chance of appearing on a TVB program again is pretty much none (since I’m sure TVB won’t take them back given they didn’t leave on good terms). Steven is terminating his management contract with TVB early and will most likely be switching to a per series contract with them once the dust settles (though he will most likely continue to be ‘mistreated’ by them as long as VL is still there). Joe is still under management contract currently, but he has already expressed that he won’t be renewing his contract with TVB once it expires this year. Charmaine already switched to a per series contract with TVB last year and Bernice terminated her contract completely out of disappointment over the way she was treated. Add to this the fact that there are A LOT of non-contracted and/or per series contracted artists who have already stated that they will only film 1 series a year for TVB (or none at all if they don’t have time), which means that there will be even fewer artists in the picture.

Oh, and let’s not forget Ricky Wong’s company CTI (which I mentioned earlier): it was just announced that 20 or so former TVB artists will be joining his company -- these include: Frankie Lam, John Chiang, Wilson Tsui, Jerry Lamb (currently with ATV, since he left TVB a few years ago), Yu Mo Lian, Catherine Chow, Benji and Lesley Chiang (well, they aren't exactly TVB artists, but their father Paul Chun is), etc.

Of course, my list is probably incomplete and there are probably other artists leaving TVB whom I may have missed – sadly though, the few that I already listed is enough to illustrate the dire situation that TVB will be in next year.


Concluding Thoughts…

With so many key players leaving TVB, you would think that they would finally 'wake up' and start doing something to change their stupid politics. I know that if I were Mona Fong and saw how badly the company was deteriorating (it’s hard to believe she does not see a problem with so many artists and behind the scenes people leaving), I would step in immediately to rectify the situation (with the first step being firing a certain someone). Unfortunately though, it doesn’t look like TVB is going to make changes any time soon – especially since up to this point, they are still ‘officially’ in denial that anything is wrong (it doesn’t take a genius to understand the concept that if you are not able to recognize what is wrong in the first place, how in the world are you going to fix it?)

To be honest, my guess is that TVB probably doesn’t even care as long as they continue to post those big revenue numbers year after year – plus I’m willing to bet that even with the addition of 3 TV stations next year, TVB won’t view them as a threat because of the ‘loyalty factor’ in terms of the audiences (they are banking on the fact that almost all of HK is already ‘used to’ watching TVB, so it won’t be easy for the audiences to switch to other stations – which, theoretically speaking, means that TVB would continue to dominate the TV industry). That’s actually what happened with ATV back in the 70s -- their predecessor RTV was in the business long before TVB even existed, but because they were not free-to-air, people naturally turned to TVB instead – by the time RTV/ATV figured things out and became free-to-air in the 70s, audiences had already been watching TVB programs for close to a decade and didn’t want to switch (though a huge part of this was also due to the 70s being a ‘golden age’ of sorts for TVB, which is definitely not the case right now). Based on the responses from some of the TVB management (back when the whole ‘3 additional free-to-air TV stations’ thing came up), it looks like they are putting their money on history repeating itself.

With 2011 coming to an end and all the TVB-related ‘drama’ that has played out over the past year, it will be interesting to see what happens in 2012!


  1. where did you hear the news frankie lam was joining cti?

  2. @Anonymous: I saw the information on Weibo...and actually quite a few news sources talked about it.

    Looks like someone re-posted the information on Baidu. Here's a link...

  3. OMG! I was catching up on your posts. Anyway, glad you did something like this since I've been madly lagging in HK related news. Well, I heard some stuffs regarding this since it has been ongoing for the whole year or so. YET wasn't tuning in to some details like Frankie Lam, John Chiang, etc.

    Would it be cruel to say that I'm glad there are changes? Most of us don't like changes but for once, I'm glad because though I don't reside in HK, etc but I wish there was some other companies/stations out there that I could tune into aside from TVB. (AND people already assumed I'm a TVB hater though that isn't really true.) I don't know how others would think, but for me, it's not about loyalty BUT more like having some variety. Like switching back and forth you know. Imagine the place where you and I live and there are only 2 channels? I don't watch TV as much anymore, but I would want varieties. LOL! (Just like how Taiwan and Mainland China are doing.) NOT sure what would come out of this and we will have to wait and see, but I'm sure at least we could pick one other station out of the upcoming new ones to watch? (In addition to TVB - that is for some people.)

  4. @DTLCT: Hi there! Sorry for the delay in reply...saw your comment yesterday but didn't get a chance to respond to it yet...

    Yea...I actually wasn't going to write one at first, but then so many things started to happen and I was starting to lose track myself, so I figured might as well "document" it so to speak....LOL.

    It's not cruel at all to say that you're glad there will be fact, I echo those sentiments exactly! TVB has been operating this way for close to 40 years and because of that, they've grown complacent and really started to deteriorate, so it's about time that these types of significant changes occur to "shake things up". The way I see it, change is good because it brings on competition and also more opportunity, but more importantly, it drives growth and improvement, which to me, is really what TVB needs....people like us who really want to see the HK TV industry get better would want change like this whereas those who don't really care probably wouldn't.

    It's sort of the same thing with that whole argument that the radio stations and TVB had several years ago over having 1 unified music awards ceremony rather than each individual station doing one of their own. Many of the veteran singers (Jacky, for example, was a huge advocate of this) liked the idea because it was more fair -- the criteria would be the same overall and the focus would be on the music and which songs/artists were truly good that year rather than rewarding based on each station's politics and favorites. But of course, TVB and the radio stations were vehemently opposed to it because doing 1 awards show would mean 1) lost profits for each of the stations, and 2) they would lose the leverage they had with the whole politics thing, since they wouldn't be able to 'manipulate' the results like they do now.

    Unfortunately, at the end of the day, it's all about the profits and what's in it for the individuals involved -- nowadays, there are very few people in the entertainment industry who really wants what's best for the industry or for their craft (Jacky is one of the few exceptions I know -- due to his passion for music, he wants first and foremost to see the music industry improve and get back to its glory days...sadly, not very many people share his views).

  5. @llwy12 - No probs. I know you're very busy. Any time is fine. I just wanted to get my comments in before I forget, that's all. LOL!

    Back to the topic, glad to have you back me up on that. Changes do drive forth competition/ growth/ improvements. I'm just excited to see how some other stations are doing - and what type of productions they are bringing forth. Probably there will be more news on that in the upcoming days, eh? If it isn't too much to ask - and of course if you have time, would you be doing more updates on this in the future? Just on the ones you tune into, that's all. NOT making requests for you to work more, lol.



    Besides your listed artists, apparently Maggie and Joe Ma have also joined CTI.

  7. @tamaya: Thanks for the info! Very interesting indeed -- though I sort of figured Maggie and Joe would leave TVB since their contracts already expired, but didn't know that they would go to CTI. Hmmm...

    Apparently Bernice is there too, plus Kenix joined as well (which really isn't surprising since Frankie was already confirmed as joining....)

    Wow...definitely interested to see who else will be joining in the coming months...

  8. Hi Ilwy12,

    I heard & saw Stephen Chan singing live on stage last night, sitting in the middle 3rd row. Wow, he is really good for a non- professional. In fact better than Mr Ron Ng:P Sadly as usual, TVB never recognises his talent:P He is very eloquence & friendly, all smile. Kind of disappointed he didn't share anything abt his days in TVB. Well, i guess a gentleman never kiss & tell, LOL. I was crossing the road this morning & saw him crossing from the other side, just like a movie, heehee..I was so tempted to ask him what happened in TV bad, haha....No no, I m not his fan:P