Saturday, July 15, 2017

News: Victory for Hong Kong media maverick Ricky Wong in mobile TV battle (title from SCMP article)

Some of you might have already heard the news (which came out yesterday) that the Communications Authority decided to approve HKTV's application to "upgrade their mobile TV transmission standard" to the same digital transmission that is currently used by the free-to-air networks -- interestingly enough, some media outlets are reporting this news as the CA "approving HKTV's mobile TV license."  To be honest, both of these technically aren't the same thing and really shouldn't be used interchangeably, since the fact is that HKTV already has a mobile TV license that they bought from another company, it's just they couldn't "use" the license up to this point because the platform they had for transmission was low quality resolution.  As a means of background, HKTV had submitted a request to the CA several years ago to upgrade their transmission platform to digital terrestrial transmission so that they could broadcast their series in higher quality, however the CA rejected their request, claiming that HKTV was trying to "circumvent the system" by upgrading to same transmission quality as the current free-to-air stations (Ricky Wong had submitted the request not long after his application for a free-to-air license was denied).  HKTV had filed a judicial review against the CA on this issue several years ago, but the courts had ruled in favor of the CA and the government, so Ricky Wong was pretty much forced to "abandon" his mobile license.

Well, now it looks like the CA has decided to "reverse course" and approve the upgrade.  Not sure what this means in terms of the license issue (remember that HKTV still has a second application for a free-to-air license in the government's hands awaiting approval/denial), as it could technically go both ways -- this could be the government's way of "appeasing" Ricky Wong in case they decide to reject his license application for a second time...or it could mean that finally, HKTV has a fighting chance at possibly getting the license.  Regardless of which way it goes though, one thing is for sure -- the new administration under Carrie Lam doesn't seem to be hell-bent on bringing down HKTV like the previous administration under CY Leung was.

Details about the approval are in this SCMP article.

With all that said though, I also read an article from HK01 in Chinese that paints a more realistic picture of what this mobile TV transmission approval means for HKTV (and HK audiences).  Though most of us can consider this a "small victory" for HKTV and Ricky Wong, the real picture is more bleak (for the record, most of the stuff in the HK01 article is pretty much in-line with what I've been trying to get across for the past 2-3 years -- basically that it's "too little, too late" and even if HKTV were to finally get their license approved, it's pretty much pointless, since things have changed so drastically -- both for HKTV and the TV industry).

In the interests of time, I'm not going to translate the HK01 article word for word.  However, I will translate the 2 most important paragraphs of the article, which were basically Ricky Wong's response to HK01 and also a high level HKTV exec's response to the CA's decision:

When HKTV switched to becoming an e-commerce shopping platform in 2014, the company essentially lost all its artists as well as behind-the-scenes staff (scriptwriters, directors, etc).  Towards the mobile license decision, Ricky Wong responded through his spokesperson: "Half the scriptwriters and directors already returned to TVB!  The rest we will have to wait and see before saying anything further" -- meaning that resuming filming again will be difficult.

A current high level executive at HKTV revealed:  "Even if the government were to approve the free-to-air license now, HKTV's business model has already changed.  Plus for the past 3 years that we've been doing HKTVmall, we've been losing money -- it was only recently that we started getting alot more orders and business has become more stable.  However, Mr. Wong has alot less capital (funds) to work with now, since HKTVmall has yet to turn over a profit -- with alot less money than he used to have, where will he find the money to invest in filming series?"  The exec also indicated that if HKTV goes the mobile TV route only (assuming their free-to-air license doesn't get approved) and they do decide to film series again, for sure they won't be filming 1 hour episodes -- to reduce production costs, each episode would only be around 10 to 15 minutes.  Also, half the scriptwriters and directors (producers) already returned to TVB, so whether they would be willing to help Ricky Wong fight the battle again is a huge unknown.

For example, HKTV series The Borderline (警界線) producer Chu King Kei (朱鏡祺) already returned to TVB awhile back ago and produced their recently mega-hit series My Unfair Lady (不懂撒嬌的女人), while The Election (選戰) producer KK Wong (黃國強) was recruited by Andy Lau's (劉德華) company to produce the series Hong Kong Wall Street (香港華爾街) for Fox Asia, so it looks like neither producer would be returning to HKTV even if given the opportunity -- in the near future at least.

Source:  HK01
(Article title: 港視獲發牌《選戰》《警界線》有望拍續集? 王維基:編導去晒TVB)


Concluding thoughts:  Basically, this "small victory" for HKTV really isn't much of a victory, since it looks like the chances of Ricky Wong filming series again is very slim.  Besides, as the HK01 article already pointed out, HKTV's operational model has already changed, so even if they did film series again, it definitely won't be the same as 5-6 years ago -- in other words, all the things that had made HKTV such a viable alternative to TVB back then (aka all the things I had loved about HKTV) would no longer be in existence now.  Of course, someone like me would probably still support HKTV, but I can't say the same about majority of HK's audiences, many of whom still view TVB as their only option for HK television programs (just look at the 2 new free-to-air stations that recently launched -- ViuTV last year and Fantastic Television this year -- and you'll see how pathetic the situation is nowadays).  Heck, if I were Ricky Wong, from a practical as well as financial standpoint, I would continue to focus on expanding and developing the HKTVmall business too and not even bother with the television production stuff anymore!


  1. It's unfortunate that Ricky Wong is dragged through the mud and now when he close to getting the license, he has no means of using it. I hope that there will be something that happens, maybe a collaboration between them and Fox Asia?

    As for the Fox Asia miniseries Trading Floor, I am surprised no one in the media brought up (as a comparison) Greed of Man with Sean Lau and Adam Cheng that was a big hit back in the early 90's.

    1. @ch1kusoo: Yea, I agree. Sure, Ricky Wong didn't necessarily go about things the right way with his arrogant attitude in the beginning and poaching TVB's artists, but he (and HKTV especially) didn't deserve to be treated this way. I'm sure there will probably be opportunity down the road to collaborate with other companies (especially if Ricky Wong decides to continue with the HKTVmall route and put fewer resources toward filming stuff), but what form that collaboration will take remains to be seen. Fox Asia collaboration doesn't seem likely though, since they already have their own production and distribution channels and they seem to be looking more for veterans who have experience in the industry. Looking at the 2 series they filmed this year, the production teams are all old-timers in the industry, with major film credits to their names. HKTV currently has no "big name" artists or behind-the-scenes people signed to them and RW himself is NOT an industry veteran, so I highly doubt Fox Asia will care much about working with him or his company.

      The media probably hasn't brought up the Greed of Man reference because the Fox Asia stuff isn't really being covered a whole lot by mainstream media (those are the media outlets that love to make those types of comparisons usually). I think once there is more mainstream media coverage, someone undoubtedly is going to bring it's just a matter of time....

    2. Exactly why I'm not too excited about Fox's tv series. Quite frankly their own US tv series are lackluster and can't compete with other channels or Netflix.

      Using all old timers in production and acting isn't the right way to go. Everyone wants to watch young leading actors and actresses and is exactly why K drama is so popular besides the stories being refreshing and creative. Old timer production crew might have experience but they are also less likely to come up with something new and original.

      HK tv series is in dire need of opportunities for young leading talents like Neo Yau and LamYiuSing who both ironically got their fame through movies.

      Obviously Ricky Wong will focus on developing the HKTV Mall but whether or not the shareholder who bought all his shares wll be the one in charge of tv series production is yet to be seen.

      I doubt one would waste so much money to buy HKTV stocks if he wasn't going to invest in productions. It's late but right now everyone should really be going the Netflix route and airing original series directly online. Broadcast stations are obsolete.

      Look at 100Most, they're able to go on the stock market now with all the revenue they made from filming long ads with stories. I won't be surprised if they go the web tv series route one day too.

  2. Agree. There is no point of holding this mobile license now. Internet TV technology has evolved and matured to the point that this is redundant. Hktv mall is finally at the upturn point where they may be able to break even (and maybe profit in a few years). Ricky Wong has already turned the media centre into a distribution centre for the mall so he doesn't even have a place to film anymore either.

    The HK TV scene has changed too much since 2014 and it's really not worth getting into at this point since it is obviously not going to make a profit. It is definately a smarter idea to stick to E commerce where there is virtually no competition in the hk market and could potentially be expanded overseas to like SE Asia.

    1. @Phixster: Very very true! In the past 2 years especially, it seems like everyone and their mothers have been filming web (internet) series (every time I read an interview about an artist who left TVB, they mention that they are currently either filming a Mainland series or some type of web series in HK). TVB has also been pushing this aspect heavily the past year and has seemed to find success with their myTV Super platform (though personally I feel it's stupid for HK audiences to pay to watch myTV Super when majority of the content is the same as their regular Jade channel). TVB has also made it clear many times in the past year that Internet/web-based series is the rave of the future and therefore the focus of their company will be on expanding their reach via collaborations with Mainland China web platforms such as iQiyi, Tencent, etc.

      Personally, I find it ironic that back in 2013/2014, HKTV was the "innovator" in terms of putting their series on the internet and mobile devices (though yes, it can also be argued that they were "forced" to do so due to not getting a license). At that time, TVB's web-based functionality was crap (myTV was a joke and their overseas foray TVBUSA sucked big time -- I had TVBUSA app downloaded since TVB created it several years ago and the damn thing never worked properly until they revamped it and changed it to encoreTVB last year). Now TVB is ahead of HKTV in this area (though of course we all know exactly why), which is another reason why I feel it's useless for HKTV to have a mobile license -- TVB essentially "stole HKTV's thunder" in this area already and also built up enough support to guarantee that it will be a success for them.

      Definitely agree that HKTV should stick to e-commerce and focus all their energies there instead of wasting time with the television piece again.