Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Latest Updates / Developments in the HK Television Industry – My Thoughts

With all the recent developments in the HK television world these past couple of weeks, I figured this might be a good time to put together a quick post recapping some of the latest happenings and also my thoughts on these developments.  Please note that I put this post together based on my memory and what I’ve read from various news sources and such, so it won’t be tremendously detailed in terms of specifics – if I have time, I’ll go back and modify the post to include links to the various articles that the information came from (though please don’t hold me to it, as it depends on whether I’m able to find time).

Ok, so the latest “hot off the press” news from today (which is kind of what triggered me to write this post) is the ‘bombshell’ that the main investor group which currently controls/owns TVB (the consortium consisting of TVB chairman Charles Chan, that HTC lady Cher Wang, and one other company) has sold its 26% controlling stake in TVB to a ‘major player’ in the Mainland (please read this article from SCMP for details, as I’m really bad with all this investment stuff so I may not have explained it correctly).   From what I gather from the article, the main “take-away” is this (quoted directly from the article):  “This marks the first time a major mainland player has access to a controlling stake in Hong Kong’s free-to-air broadcaster”.

I may be reading too much into this, but I have a sinking feeling that the above shareholder change in TVB is not going to bode well for the HK television industry.  Ever since the ‘changing of the guard’ a few years ago from the Shaw family to Charles Chan and company (and the subsequent switching out of the station’s chairman from Run Run Shaw to Mona Fong to Norman Leung then to Charles Chan), TVB hasn’t felt the same to me – now with this newest change, TVB feels even more’s almost as though the station is losing more and more of its ‘HK flavor’, which definitely isn’t a good thing, especially for those of us who grew up in the glory days of the HK entertainment industry.  Also with these recent changes, another concern I can’t help but having is whether TVB is showing signs of going down ATV’s path with its increasingly negative reputation and incompetent / constantly changing management.

Related to this is the situation surrounding ATV and the fight for free TV licenses.  Since it’s been a whirlwind month in terms of that, let’s recap….

On April 1st, the government announced that they will not be renewing ATV’s free TV license (despite the fact that they finally found a buyer in that AID International company), which means that ATV will have to close up shop by April of next year (if they survive that long).  In that same press conference, the government also announced that they are officially issuing a 12 year free TV license to NowTV’s free TV subsidiary HKTVE (not to be confused with HKTV).  Government radio station RTHK got thrown into the equation too when the Communications Authority announced that RTHK would take over ATV’s analogue broadcasting spectrum once ATV officially closes (this threw RTHK for a loop, since they are not even set up to use analogue spectrum and would have to invest tons of resources and money in order to get setup to use it).  Fantastic Television’s (i-Cable’s free TV subsidiary) TV license is still “in limbo” because ever since their application was approved more than a year ago, they’ve done pretty much nothing in terms of preparation for launching a free TV channel – so until they show some movement, their license will continue to be “on hold”.  The latest development in terms of i-Cable is that they put in an application with the government for ATV’s broadcasting spectrum (once ATV closes up shop) – last I heard was that the government is reviewing the application (still no movement on the licensing front though).

Meanwhile, on the HKTV front – well, despite officially launching on the internet in November 2014 and gaining wide support from audiences for their quality series, their future still hangs in the balance.  The judicial review that they filed against the government for denying them a free TV license is still “pending” in court (technically, the case is over except for the important fact that the judge has not issued a decision yet – and has continued to postpone the decision indefinitely)….however, they still resubmitted their application for a free TV license last year and are waiting for the government to once again make a decision (I wonder if they will have to wait another 4 years for the decision like they did last time).   In the mean time, Ricky Wong has proposed a collaboration with ATV whereby he will allow ATV to air HKTV series but they will share half the advertising revenue/profits…to sweeten the deal, Ricky Wong will pay ATV 5 million HKD a month for their operating costs (so HKTV is essentially proposing to “rent” ATV’s channels to broadcast their series).  With the dire situation that ATV is in, you would think that they would jump at such a deal right?  Well, apparently not – ATV’s idiotic chairman Ip Ka Bo opened his big mouth last week and pretty much ‘dissed’ HKTV’s offer, saying that it was ‘questionable’ and he was ‘worried’ that HKTV’s series won’t be able to pull in ratings or sustain advertisers (um, wait – ATV is worried that HKTV won’t be able to pull in high ratings when their own programs can’t even get past the ‘zero’ mark in ratings?  That makes no sense to me at all)…..Ip Ka Bo then went on to say that HKTV’s offer of 5 million HKD is ‘too low’ and asked for a minimum of 10 million HKD per month instead (so I guess all that talk about being ‘worried’ over ratings and advertising was a bunch of baloney – at the end of the day, it boiled down to Ip Ka Bo wanting more money…).

Speaking of ATV….in another twist last week, veteran actor / director / producer (and former ATV employee) Tsui Siu Ming announced that he is in talks with ATV’s management to purchase the station.  His reason for doing so is because he holds ATV near and dear to his heart and doesn’t want to see its remaining 500+ employees out of a job – he specified in his proposal his plans for producing programming and series and also stated that he would try to re-apply for a license next year.  But if it turns out that ATV will still have to close, he wants the station to at least go out with ‘honor and dignity’.  Not sure if ATV is going to take Tsui Siu Ming up on his offer (though I think it’s safe to assume that this offer is likely one of the reasons why Ip Ka Bo said what he did in terms of HKTV’s offer being ‘questionable’ – he probably thinks that ATV has other options now, so they can play ‘hard to get’…).  We’ll have to see what happens.

Lastly (see, told you there’s been a lot going on…lol), the son of late former ATV owner Deacon Chiu (sorry, forgot the son’s name) has announced plans to team up with Macau gambling mogul Stanley Ho’s daughter Pansy Ho as well as a bunch of other Mainland companies (in another ‘consortium’ – what’s with all these consortiums anyway?) to set up a terrestrial TV station (meaning free local TV station) in HK and invest billions of dollars to maintain it.  He has already submitted his application for a free TV license and will be the other ‘major player’ vying for a license next year (the other ‘major player’ is of course HKTV).    Whether this consortium will be successful or not in its TV station venture remains to be seen, but as of right now, it’s definitely not looking good for HKTV, as the Chiu consortium has Mainland backing, which leads me to believe that the Mainland-leaning HK government will likely grant a license to them over HKTV (especially given how much the government hates Ricky Wong and HKTV).

Oh wait – don’t forget there was the whole thing about American company Fox International entering the HK television and film market as well (I posted that article a few weeks back so feel free to check that out too).

Concluding thoughts….with so much instability in the HK television market right now and so many ‘decisions’ up in the air, the coming months will definitely be interesting to see how everything pans out.  At this point, I’m not even going to attempt to ‘guess’ what any of the outcomes will be, as everything is too volatile right now and new developments seem to emerge every week practically that ‘threaten’ to change the future landscape of the HK television industry (for better or for worse?).  One thing I will say though is that I will definitely continue to ‘be along for the ride’!

Thoughts?  Opinions?


    Why is ATV resisting the partnership? Does it have anything to do with not wanting to rub the Leung Chun-ying administration the wrong way?

    According to above article, it's politics driven. If HKTV series did really well on tv, then government will have egg on their face for their decision to decline license to HKTV.

    A mainlander player with controlling share on TVB definitely sounds the death knell for HK flavored tv dramas.

    1. @tamaya: Agreed that the political factor is at play here as well (just like it was during the license denial). Even Ricky Wong himself once said that there is essentially only 1 person preventing him from getting a license (obviously he was referring to Mr. Chief Executive) long as CY Leung is in office, HKTV pretty much has no chance at a license.

      Like I said in other forums -- it's sad that the one 'station' that is truly focusing on the HK television market is refused a license by the HK government (who is supposed to have the best interests of the HK people in mind)....instead, all the ones with Mainland focus and/or backing are welcomed with open arms...

      *sigh*...First it was the HK film industry being 'Mainland-ized', now it's happening to the HK television industry. What's next? The music industry? I guess the whole 'argument' about "one country two systems for 50 years" being a load of crap (an argument that has been ongoing since HK's return in 1997) is gaining more ground now that the Mainland penetration has gotten greater....

  2. Another nail to the coffin for TVB series in HK or the mark of them switching their focus entirely towards Mainland China which they publicly announced earlier.
    Quite frankly I'd say good riddance to TVB because their series has truly been crap. They are getting closer to repeating RTV(ATV)'s history.

    I really hope HKTV will get their license somehow or continue in other ways.

  3. The technology at some point will make free to air obsolete. That's coming sooner than later. So the key for HKTV is put their main efforts in getting this shopping mall going and successful. What I might do is license must see foreign shows so production costs are minimized. Plus, I would promote the mall to no end. So many people know nothing about the mall. Where is the ad agency for HKTV Mall. Or are they getting it ready for prime time?

    TVB going to the dark side is actually really good news. If they focus on coproductions with the mainland like nowTV, they will all lose their audience just like ATV. This would leave the local market for HKTV when the technological creTes a level playing field.

    The mall is the key!!!

    1. Lets up that time comes before September when all of HKTV's series are aired. It took them 7 1/2 month just to film the Menu and that doesn't include post production. I don't want to have to wait 2 years just to watch a sequel granted that's what BBC does with their famous series Sherlock.

    2. @Anonymous: I agree with you about the HKTV mall piece and the technology. So far, the ads and promo for HKTV mall have been very limited, mostly to promo spots in between HKTV series or on their website / mobile app / set-top boxes, etc. and so lacks the widespread reach it needs to be successful. In the end, I think it boils down to what Ricky Wong's main intentions are -- if he's doing the mall thing as a means to make some money while waiting for a license (which I have a feeling is his intent), then it's likely he won't put more effort than necessary in building up the mall. For me, one complaint I've had about the mall since the beginning is the lack of HKTV-centric stuff in there -- for example, their own series and programs. To me, it would make sense that HKTV mall should have exclusive editions (i.e. DVD box sets) of their own series and programs for sale -- but the reality is that they don't (the only one they have is The Election). I mean, sure, the majority of audiences may not buy DVDs anymore, but there are still enough people out there who do (especially fans of the series or the artists) whom I'm sure wouldn't mind paying decent price for original version of the series (plus all the special behind-the-scenes stuff they release for each series). I don't know, but to me, I would think something like that is a "no-brainer"

      While it's true that TVB focusing on Mainland may not be a bad thing from the competitor's standpoint, looking at it as a whole in terms of HK entertainment industry/market is a different story. Plus there's the political factor (namely the HK government and the link to the CCP) that will always be an obstacle no matter what, since everything in HK is ultimately controlled by the government.

  4. They are really stupid to think that they can produce mandarin programming that can compete with mainland production companies in China.