TVB did something this past week that I'm so pissed about, I have to write about it to vent my frustration (as if I haven't written about it enough already in various discussion forums and such, lol).
Anyway, the big entertainment news from this weekend was the huge fallout (second one in less than a decade) between record company Universal and TVB over copyright terms for using Universal artists' songs on TVB programs feature on their Internet channels (i.e. myTV, myTV Super, TVB.com). The way it works is that the record companies give TVB contracted rights to use their artists' music/songs for a period of 3 years and after that, the contract gets renewed if both parties agree on the terms. Well, TVB's latest contract with Universal expired on 5/1/16 so both parties got together to discuss contract renewal as they've been doing for the past few decades. TVB sent Herman Ho - the head of their own music label Voice Entertainment - to discuss contract terms with Universal's higher ups (I'll explain in a minute why I have a problem with this arrangement in the first place) and departing from usual terms, this time around, TVB put in a requirement that is at the same time ridiculous and impossible to fulfill. TVB basically requested that Universal sign over the exclusive rights to use their artists' songs FOREVER (yes, you read it right - the word used was FOREVER!) - which meant that TVB could continue to use Universal copyrighted songs in any program they feature on their Internet portals even after the contract terms are up without having to worry about getting copyright approval (which implies that they don't have to pay Universal royalty fees) and also that Universal can't allow other stations to use those songs. Universal of course said HELL NO (kudos to them!!!) and decided to not renew their contract with TVB (lol...the Universal execs reacted quite professionally - if it were me, I would've told Herman Ho to go to hell!) Based on the contract terms, TVB has 3 years from expiration date (so 4/30/2019) to either remove all Universal copyrighted songs from their Internet programs (which of course would be a lot of work) or take down the affected programs from their Internet portals entirely (note that these terms don't apply to programs aired on TVB's regular free-to-air channel). So basically, TVB was once again trying to be the arrogant bully that they are but this time, it backfired on them because Universal refused to bend to them.
I don't think any of us need to be rocket scientists to understand what type of impact this is going to have on the HK television and music industries. Herman Ho claims that TVB still 'welcomes' all Universal artists to participate in their programs provided their appearance doesn't violate contract terms (meaning there is no singing / music involved), however knowing TVB's track record, that is pretty much lip service, as we all know that TVB is petty and will now be 'banning' Universal artists just like they did during the royalty dispute 7-8 years ago. Besides, who the hell gave Herman Ho the right to speak for TVB as a whole when he's only the head of their record label? Oh, that's right - his wife is Sandy Yu, who, on paper, is only the head of the variety programs department (and is at the same level as Catherine Tsang, who is head of the drama department), but in reality, she is the actual one 'in power' at TVB now. Go figure! The fact that TVB sent Herman Ho to negotiate with a fellow record company is conflict of interest first of all (since both are heads of rival record companies) and it also reeks of insincerity on TVB's part -- if TVB CEO Mark Lee felt it was beneath him to negotiate with a mere record company, then at least send one of the GMs who oversee all production to negotiate with Universal...after all, the outcome of the talks will for sure impact all of TVB's programs, not just music-related ones. With this arrangement, TVB already started off on the wrong foot (though to be honest, I'm not sure whether this was a deliberate move on TVB's part to "pay back" Universal for opposing them so many times over the past few years or the current execs over at TVB are just dumbaxxxs who have no clue what they are doing....I personally think it might be a combination of both). The reason I threw that 'pay back' thing in there is because Universal's execs said that they've had the same contract with TVB for decades and the discussions have always gone smoothly, but this time around, TVB dropped that "forever" clause on them out of nowhere, which is what caused the discussion to go sour (why the sudden change in terms, TVB???)
The latest 'development' in this absurd saga is that as of yesterday, TVB (um, actually Herman Ho - but I guess he represents all of TVB now) was "crying a river" to reporters, claiming that Universal was the one being "unreasonable" by forcing TVB to take down/remove Universal copyrighted content within 3 years. How INSANE is that???? TVB is the one who started the dispute by putting forth a RIDICULOUS to the max requirement that NO ONE in their right minds would agree to - now when Universal says NO and proceeds with terminating the contract as per terms, TVB is trying to make themselves look like the victim by shifting the blame on the record company instead? WTF? Oh, but it gets better....in the same "crying a river" interview, Herman Ho goes on to contradict himself by saying that the 'impact' of this dispute to TVB won't be much at all, as 'only a handful of programs will be affected' (yeah, right!!!!). Um, if only 'a handful of programs' is being affected, why the bloody hell is TVB (via Herman Ho) trying to shift the blame to Universal? Herman Ho is actually outright lying, as it's obvious to anyone with a brain that the impact of this is going to be huge, especially since the copyrighted songs date all the way back to the 80s/90s (which includes all the songs under Polygram, which Universal bought out in the 90s). Even TVB's former GM Stephen Chan said that he hasn't been paying much attention to the details of the issue, but he knows for a fact that if TVB has to remove/take down all copyrighted programs, that will definitely be a huge problem for them. With Universal being one of the largest international record companies out there with practically half the HK music industry signed to them (including many of the industry's 'biggest names' such as Alan Tam, Jacky Cheung, Hacken Lee, Sandy Lam, George Lam, Eason Chan, Kelly Chan, etc.), it will obviously be TVB's loss if they don't rectify the situation and proceed to 'ban' Universal (as is widely speculated). Universal definitely does not need TVB, as they have a plethora of other options and platforms to promote their music (including TVB's rival free-to-air station ViuTV - which they already have collaborations with - as well as the cable networks and of course, internet platforms such as Youtube).
To be honest, I am actually a bit surprised that TVB would make such a bonehead, stupid move at such a sensitive point in time when their reputation is already in the toilet, their production quality is at an all-time low, artists and behind-the-scenes people are jumping ship left and right, and their own in-house produced singers (the Voice Entertainment crowd) are being heavily criticized for lacking actual singing skills. Also, in this day and age, with all the technology and resulting doors that have opened up with Internet platforms, there's no way that TVB doesn't know that the record companies have tons more options than they've ever had in the past to promote their artists' music. Does TVB really think they are that 'high and mighty' as to demand that the record companies collaborate ONLY with them and forego all other opportunities to make more money? What record company would be stupid enough to cut off a large part of their revenue source just so they can cater to TVB's ridiculous whims? (Ok, ok, I know that there ARE some record companies out there who would be willing to do it because they are so pro-TVB...not that I'm going to name names though, lol). What planet are these TVB execs living on? Like I said in another forum - either Herman Ho is deliberately trying to sabotage TVB's relationship with other record companies in order to boost his own record label or TVB has gotten to the "arrogant beyond saving" stage where they are stupidly flexing their power to see who will bend to them without giving a crap about the consequences.
Lastly...I don't think it's lost on anyone reading this that there will be one more 'consequence' that none of us HK television fans want to see happen: the television screen for the next 3 years (and perhaps beyond that) will essentially be 'dominated' by Voice Entertainment singers (argh, please kill me now...) and the JSG awards ceremonies will go back to being "the EEG + Voice Entertainment Music Awards". TVB just gave me more reason to stop watching their programs! I swear, TVB is slowly chipping away at the small circle of 'support' that I still have for them - if it weren't for the few artists and behind-the-scenes people I care about still working for TVB, I would've abandoned this station a long time ago.
Words of wisdom to TVB from a long-time 'follower' (me - though of course, not that TVB gives a damn, lol): Stop testing our patience with the arrogant attitude and pettiness! Despite the fact that you have let us down time and time again, many of us still continue to 'support' you to some extent because of sentimentality (and other) reasons. Stop taking advantage of your audiences' goodwill and stop treating everyone like brainless sheep who must adhere to your every beck and call. Let ATV be a lesson on how NOT to manage a TV station (though looks like it's too late for this one) because if you fall, it will be 100 times worse and the damage will be far-reaching....