There has been quite a lot going on in the HK television industry as of late, so I felt it would be appropriate to give a quick update. Note that this is just a quick summary and not meant to be all-inclusive, so please bear this in mind in case I may have missed anything in my post.
ATV shutdown: To pull the plug or not to pull the plug….
The biggest news from today and yesterday is the shutdown of ATV. Deloitte, the company tasked with liquidating ATV, was given orders to immediately shutdown ATV yesterday – in fact, they went as far as having a meeting with all of ATV’s remaining employees and handing them termination letters on the spot. The last step was a scheduled press conference to announce the immediate shutdown to the public – but that was stopped by a last minute court order that ATV’s Mainland investor Si Rongbin was able to get whereby Deloitte must hold off on their actions until Thursday when the court will convene to determine ATV’s fate. [This is the ‘in a nutshell’ version of what went down – for details, read this article from SCMP].
And so, ATV will continue to be in operations for another 2 days at least (maybe longer depending on which party the court sides with). Honestly, this whole ATV thing has gotten so stupid that it defies the depths of logic. I personally hope that the court sides with the Deloitte people and ATV gets shut down immediately – I would rather they put everyone (ATV’s workers as well as all us audiences) out of our misery than continue to let those bastard execs at ATV continue to play their stupid games. I guess we will have to wait until Thursday at 10am HKT to see whether we’ll have to continue putting up with this sorry excuse for a TV station for another month!!
ViuTV launch: TVB’s ‘non-competitor’….for now at least
Now that NowTV/PCCW finally has their free-to-air license, the plans to launch their new station ViuTV is underway. The official launch date will be on April 6th (though there will be what they call a ‘soft launch’ on 3/31 where those who have NowTV set top boxes will be able to start receiving the service) and they’ve already held a press conference detailing their programming plans. I’m going to save the details for another post, but just know that from day one, ViuTV is not going to be anywhere near a competitor for TVB, as their target audience and market will be completely different. ViuTV will be targeting the younger audiences who have pretty much already stopped watching TVB and ATV – their programming will consist of primarily variety programs (or what they call “factual entertainment” programs). The general manager of ViuTV said that their intention is to give HK audiences a different option and made it clear that their target audience is “the local Cantonese-speaking audience who read traditional Chinese instead of simplified” (LOL…obvious jab at TVB’s recent bonehead decision to use simplified characters for their newscasts instead of traditional ones, sparking a record 10,000+ complaints to the Communications Authority). In addition to focusing on variety, news, and children’s programming, they will also air TV series from other countries (i.e. Thailand, Japan, Korea). How about local Cantonese dramas, you might ask? ViuTV says that they ARE going to begin producing dramas, but only selectively. The first drama that will be part of the lineup (not sure if the drama has already been filmed or it is being filmed currently – will need to read up more on it) is called Margaret and David, which is a drama adapted from a famous novel. The series will star Bowie Lam and Catherine Chau.
Reading through the details of their programs, the show that I found most interesting and I think will resonate with audiences (and kudos to ViuTV for daring to attempt this) is Travel With Rivals – a travelogue show that will pair up rivals from the political and entertainment worlds and have them go on outings together. The ‘pairings’ that have been announced so far are: Legco president Jasper Tsang paired with controversial legislator Leung Kwok-hung (better known as ‘Long Hair’); 100Most co-founder Roy Lam Yat Hei paired with legislator Ann Chiang Lai Wan (they represent opposite ends of the societal spectrum – the youths pushing for HK’s independence vs the pro-establishment camp advocating solidarity with China); singer Denise Ho is paired with actor/singer Zac Koo (this one is obvious – Denise is a lesbian who is also an outspoken proponent of gay rights while Zac is a devout Christian who is also a known homophobic and very vocal about his beliefs). I am curious about this show, primarily because it is so different and controversial and it will be interesting to see how things play out – most importantly though, this is the type of show that TVB will never ever make even if you gave them a billion dollars (for this reason alone, the show is worth watching in my book!).
TVB ‘myTV Super’ launch: same old crap from a soon-to-be 'legitimate' monopoly
TVB has confirmed that their new internet platform myTV Super (which sounds to me like nothing more than a glorified version of their current myTV channel) will officially launch on April 18th. The platform will feature 20 channels with programs ranging from TV series, music shows, news casts, infotainment shows, variety shows, etc. and will be in high quality digital format with the ability for audiences to re-watch programs of their liking. In terms of TV series, the plan so far is to air a few of their new series (that Season of Love series is already scheduled to premiere on day one) plus a long lineup of ‘outside’ series that TVB bought the airing rights to from Mainland China, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. What I’m most curious about is whether they will air ‘classics’ on this platform (i.e. old TVB series and variety programs from the 70s/80s/90s) – there have been rumors from the HK media that TVB will air ‘old’ shows, but since TVB has yet to confirm it, I won’t bank on that being true just yet. Oh, one ‘caveat’ that is very important to mention – this will be a subscription-based platform, which means that those audiences who were looking for a free service are pretty much out of luck (I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who finds it ironic that TVB is now going to charge audiences for formerly ‘free’ content).
In my opinion, this myTV Super thing is a desperate ‘money-grab’ attempt by TVB – sorry if this sounds harsh, but I honestly don’t know how else to describe it. Most of the stuff that TVB is planning to put on the platform is stuff that is currently already accessible to all audiences. Sure, they claim that they are going to air some new, ‘innovative’ programming content (such as a show that will allow artists to put their own creative ideas into production and interact with audiences), but to be honest, given TVB’s track record and their ‘policy’ of avoiding controversy, I highly doubt anything will come of this. At this moment in time, I will be interested in myTV Super ONLY if TVB does end up going the route of airing their classic series and variety programs on the platform, as that content is definitely worth paying for – otherwise, why should I pay to watch their current series, especially when majority of those series nowadays are crappy?
For those of you wondering, there is still no word from i-Cable on what their plans are for their free-TV launch – in fact, the Communications Authority has said that the government already requested a detailed proposal from i-Cable and have given them a deadline to provide the information in order to ‘keep’ the license that was granted to them ‘in principle’. Of course, given how badly the government mishandled the ATV thing (don’t even get me started on how poorly managed the whole ATV shutdown movement was, as I could probably complain for hours about it), I wouldn’t be surprised if i-Cable continues to remain in its ‘limbo’ status indefinitely.
Also still no decision on the new free-to-air license applications that were submitted (by David Chiu’s consortium and also the resubmitted application from HKTV). Not sure if we will hear something next month, since the government has basically been using the ATV shutdown as an ‘excuse’ to not make a decision yet (the argument is that they need to wait until the April 1st license revocation deadline that they gave ATV – once the license is officially taken away and thereby ‘available’, then they can make the determination on who should get that license). While I’m sure that once April 1st rolls around, people are going to start asking what will happen to the license, I highly doubt that the current administration is going to respond with anything specific…my guess is that they will try everything possible to continue stalling until next year so that if there is any backlash that results (which there undoubtedly will be), the incoming administration can deal with it instead of themselves.