Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Breaking news: R.I.P. HKTV....

It's official now….the moment that we were all dreading but knew would inevitably come has finally arrived:  HKTV (through its chairman Ricky Wong) announced yesterday that they are completely withdrawing from the television industry.  In addition to retrieving the second license application that they submitted back in 2014 (which has been in "pending" status since that time), they will also be returning the mobile TV license they had obtained and also returning the broadcasting spectrum they have to the government. Details are in the article from SCMP below that actually sums it up pretty well (there are tons of articles out in Chinese too but I'm too lazy to translate, lol).

As a fan and supporter of HKTV for so long, people have been asking me what my take is on this news.  To be honest, I feel it's a good decision – one that is long overdue.  Ever since HKTV was denied a license back in 2013, I had already said that Ricky Wong was better off just leaving and investing his money elsewhere instead – but then he re-submitted his application and also acquired mobile license, continued building up his studio, and kept saying that he planned to resume production, even though the writing had been on the wall for a long time that he wasn't going to.  A few months back, when the news came out that RW had sold his stake in HKTV to his partner so he could concentrate fully on his HKTVmall, that was already a clear sign that he had given up on the television industry already (despite the words that came out of his mouth that indicated the contrary).  I'm honestly surprised that RW didn't decide to withdraw sooner, since it has been obvious for years that the government was not going to grant him a license no matter what and he was wasting both his money and his time in "limbo".

Of course, with all that said, part of me is still a little sad that HKTV is officially no more, but most importantly, I'm sad for the HK television industry.  Long-time readers of my blog will know that I've been following the HK entertainment industry since the 1980s (technically earlier than that if we count my mom's relationship with the industry) and have witnessed the evolution of the industry for close to 3 decades now.  I grew up watching TVB (and also ATV to some extent) and up until the early 2000s, had considered myself a "die-hard" fan – needless to say that having to witness TVB (and the HK television industry as a whole) spiral downhill and deteriorate to the point that it has over the past 15 years has been painful.  Just when I thought things had reached the point of no return, HKTV showed up a few years ago and injected a glimmer of hope into an industry that was already on the brink of death.  HKTV not only shook up a dormant industry that had been "asleep" for way too long, they also changed the face of HK television production and proved to many of us – those in the industry as well as ordinary audiences – that it WAS possible to make quality productions without resorting to "slave labor" (long hours with little to no rest), that it WAS possible to wait until scripts were 100% complete before starting to film, that it WAS possible to treat artists with respect and dignity and pay them well at the same time.  HKTV also showed us what true "creative freedom" meant, showed us what sincerity looked like, showed us how important a role working environment plays in employee satisfaction (though honestly I already knew this from working in the corporate world for many years), and quite frankly, opened the eyes of many folks who had been drinking the TVB Kool-aid for too long and didn't realize that there truly were alternatives to the "TVB way".  For me though, HKTV's biggest contribution will always be the lives they were able to change by forcing TVB to "up" their game in the face of the severe competition that TVB had up to that point had the "luxury" of avoiding:  the countless stories of behind-the-scenes folks at TVB who were never recognized for their work suddenly getting pushed to the forefront, or the poor scriptwriter who received their first raise in 20 years, or the green leaf artists who were previously cast by the wayside in favor of the younger, prettier leads finally getting the recognition that had been long overdue.  I feel sad for the industry because HKTV's defeat means that TVB has won -- the implication of which I don't even want to think about… 

To HKTV and Ricky Wong:  as a long-time supporter of the HK television industry, I salute you and thank you for all that you were able to accomplish in the 8 short years that you existed. While some of the changes that came about were only temporary, a few did end up being permanent and much of that was because of your efforts.  Thank you for revolutionizing the industry during a time when it was very much needed and for showing us that HK is truly capable of making quality productions, it's just a matter of putting the right effort and passion into it.  Most of all, thank you for doing something that TVB had stopped doing many years ago (and still refuse to do even now):  respecting audiences and treating us like actual human beings with our own voices/thoughts/opinions rather than brainless sheep blindly eating whatever crap was being fed to us.  You truly put audiences first, didn't try to think for us, and actually allowed us to have a say in shaping your productions – this is one of the things I will miss most, especially given the current state of the industry.  Best of luck to you and wish you the utmost success with HKTVmall (and yes, I have confidence you will be the next Amazon, lol).


Hong Kong media maverick Ricky Wong quits free-to-air TV dream and exits sector

Source: SCMP

Media tycoon Ricky Wong Wai-kay has quit his troubled quest to secure a free-to-air television licence for the ill-fated Hong Kong Television and vowed never to return to the broadcasting business.

His remarks came on Tuesday as the publicly listed HKTV announced its annual results for 2017, revealing a staggering net loss of HK$204.9 million (US$26.1 million). The share price of HKTV had plunged by 14 per cent to HK$3.16 when markets closed on Tuesday.

Explaining the reason to end his lifelong free-to-air TV dream, Wong, who chairs HKTV, said the wait had simply been too long.

"The answer is as simple as 'we've been waiting for eight years,'" he said.

According to the outspoken businessman, the company, formerly named City Telecom, was "invited" by government officials in 2009 to apply for the license.

But in 2013, the Executive Council, led by then chief executive Leung Chun-ying, only granted the licence to i-Cable's Fantastic TV and PCCW's HK Television Entertainment Company.

The rejection of HKTV's application sparked public outcry that year, with many questioning whether the decision was politically driven. More than 300 staff members were also laid off in the same year.

The company's second bid was filed the following year, but on Tuesday, Wong said the application had been withdrawn after four years of not hearing back from the government.

Despite declaring his exit from the broadcasting business, Wong said he had no plans to rename the company. "I think the name … HKTV is a sweet memory for many Hong Kong people – the memory, I think, is valuable."

Asked if he held any resentment towards the government, Wong said he would "take it easy".

"I taught my kids that this world is never fair, we have to learn to face unfair challenges," he said.

Wong also told reporters he had "nothing to say" to Leung, now vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's top advisory body.

While the company currently operates a broadcast-type mobile TV service via its website and mobile application, Wong also announced on Tuesday it would be shut down.

The TV shows produced by HKTV, however, would be aired on a free TV channel in April, Wong said.

According to sources, the programmes would be aired on Fantastic TV starting mid-April.

Wong said the company would focus resources on the e-commerce business, such as purchasing more trucks to deliver goods sold via its online shopping platform, HKTVmall. Media equipment that was bought for its TV productions would be used to create multimedia content to support the e-commerce push.

A spokesman of the Office of the Communications Authority said on Tuesday night that HKTV had informed it earlier in the day about the application withdrawal.

"After HKTV withdrew its application, the office has no other free-to-air TV licence application to process," the spokesman said. He did not say why the application took years to process.

A former HKTV staff member said she was not surprised by Wong's move as the company had already laid off all production team members and had since focused on its online shopping business.

 In 2016, HKTV posted a net loss of HK$257.1 million.

Norris Wong, a former junior script writer who was laid off in 2013, said Ricky Wong should be remembered as someone who revolutionised the development of local broadcasting.

"Never before had any broadcaster invested so much money into local dramas," Norris Wong said. 

"By doing so, he prompted other broadcasters such as TVB to do better to compete, pushing up the standard of local dramas. We also saw hope that the reputation of Hong Kong productions would be revived and the industry can regain its fame in the region."

She said HKTV was once a place where local scriptwriters could be creative and make their dreams of good productions come true, adding she was saddened that all this had come to an end.

Information technology sector lawmaker Charles Mok said it was a shame that HKTV was never awarded the license.

"We had no chance to know if the [free-to-air TV] market will be different," Mok said.

The case of HKTV might have put off interested parties from entering the local TV industry, he said, adding that the government needed to introduce more transparency to its process of granting such licences.


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  2. It was the right decision, tv station just isn’t profitable anymore compared to web series that are the future. No clue why Ricky was so stubborn about getting the license instead of just going the Netflix route.

    Now the next gen of actors will have even less chance of making it outside of TVB! Actors like Neo Yau and LamYiuSing are the rare ones who made their names through movies with Sing taking 10 years to get known. In fact I only found out of them because of their younger version roles in the hit ViuTV series Margaret and David. Goes to show the importance and influence of good tv series. Not to mention the production and promotion style ViuTV ripped off of HKTV.

  3. I just listened to Ricky Wong's 881 interview. I wish Stephen didn't talk so much at the end because Mr Kwan, the guy who phoned in ask the most important question. He asked since web series are so popular whether Ricky Wong would consider filming web series as well. Especially since HKTV's commercial had "interactions" with their series storylines (ex The Election and Borderline Police commercials looked like they were part of the series before the reveal.)

    Ricky Wong didn't fully answer that question just said they do plan on filming 8-10 clip/series? and that they do plan on continuing on that route. Then Stephen started rambling... I wanted Ricky Wong to give a straight answer in regards to filming 20-30 episode web series but he didn't :/

    Gosh I seriously hope givingly up tv license doesn't mean giving up on web series or Netflix route because the current atmosphere is too gloomy. Now locally invested web series doesn't give a consistent platform for new actors to grow nor does it last for a long time. Not to mention majority of web series like youku and Fox are only hiring famous actors as main leads. ATV because the worst saying they will be hiring and filming Mainland China actors and series, then they might as well move to the Mainland cause no one will watch at all.

    1. @sport: Sorry I haven't responded yet. Been busy the past couple days and didn't get the chance to listen to RW's 881 interview yet...was planning to respond more fully once I listen to the interview.

      By the way, in regards to ATV -- looks like they are in trouble again, as the Mainland series that they supposedly spent millions of dollars buying the exclusive broadcasting rights to (and were planning some grand broadcasting promo thing with Mainland) won't be airing after all, since that series' main lead Gavin Gao (Mainland actor) was recently arrested for alleged sexual assault....looks like that series will be put on hold indefinitely (and might not even air at all). So now after the My Date with A Vampire debacle (where ATV announced remake but didn't even have the rights to the series anymore so had to scrap those plans), it's strike #2 with the Mainland series. In my opinion, they are already doomed...

    2. @sport: Hey there! I finally finished listening to part 2 of the interview. Ricky Wong actually did fully answer the web series question, just not in the way it was originally intended. The guy who called in asked if RW would be interested in going the web series route (he was referring to what you're thinking in terms of 20-30 episode series like all the other companies are doing now), to which RW replied that they "gave up on TV license but didn't give up on multimedia production" (direct quote from RW...had to pause it a few times to make sure I got the exact words, lol). The 8-10 minute short clips/films to supplement their products is actually something they did in the past (I remember they had filmed one several years ago with I think Felix Wong's daughter and also Bryant Mak for some product in their HKTV mall -- it was what they called a "mini-movie"...I remember writing up something on it at that time so just need to dig through my notes). RW's point was that basically they will continue to film "video content" to supplement the products they are selling...but you are right in that he didn't answer the question about whether he would be interested in filming / producing / investing in web series in the traditional sense.

      I'm writing up my recap of the interview right now, but probably will take a few days to finish. There was actually quite a bit of good insight in the interview so I really want to recap it properly -- kind of like a "last hurrah" for HKTV...

  4. Haha that’s great news in my opinion! It’s bad enough they won’t change the name but to go the same route from what killed ATV (focusing on mainland series and market); they ar destined for failure. In fact I hope TVB goes under for the same reasons as well!

    It’s embarrassing for a HK based company to be revived to make web series only to tell the audience they’re not here for make entertainment for the HK people just mainlander.

    Just look at the recent so called web series by Wong Jing, great wesley adventure starring Shawn Yue. To me from the poster to the cast filled with mainland actors it’s no different from any mainland series.

    Same with the new flying tiger tvbxyouku series. Besides copying HKTV’s filming style, the image quality, lighting, etc looks more like a mainland series wannabe K drama Descendants of the Sun with copying of The Menu car chase scenes.

    My dad was watching it and it was close to the end where I saw the Ron Ng in a car with Bluetooth doing similar chase scene and steering as Fong Ying! Except get this The Menu director Ben Fong is not part of the production.

    TVB and those who’ve returned can copy what other fellow colleagues did at HKTV but it will just be a soulless copy.

    All those youku and China produced web series are looking more like gimmicks. Without freedom of creative it will just be rehash of old works like Wong Jing’s or no different from other mainland shows.

    As the years pass my hope for ever watching another hk series grows dimmer. None of them have the sincerity and creativity like HKTV did.

    Wish Ricky Wong wasn’t so stubborn over the tv license where he’d rather give up then become a web based company like TVMost.

    1. @sport: Sorry for the late response! Been bogged down lately with alot of stuff and only got a chance to catch up on some stuff today.

      Yea, agree with you about ATV. And yes, that Wesley series from Wong Jing is crap -- you will probably be happy to know that the series is getting alot of criticism from audiences online, as supposedly the plot of the first episodes that aired was completely incoherent and majority of it wasn't faithful to the books either. Many audiences were saying that the series was yet another Wong Jing garbage production and the only saving grace was the great acting from movie kings Simon Yam and Gordon Lam. I couldn't help smirking when I heard the series being panned, lol (I felt like saying "I told you so!! It's Wong Jing, what do you expeect???")....

      I'm not interested in watching Flying Tigers at all so I didn't bother with even reading the summary...but I am not surprised if it did indeed copy elements of HKTV series because that's pretty much what TVB has been doing the past 2 years (I listed the series they copied in my response to jjwong below, though I left out Flying Tigers since I don't really consider that a TVB series technically...). I was going to say that I'm waiting for one of TVB's series to copy The Menu and of course, now we have it with Flying Tigers car case scene....I'm glad I'm not watching the series because I would seriously be pissed off.

      By the way -- I finally finished part 1 of Ricky Wong's 881 interview...haven't had a chance to listen to part 2 yet though...I'm hoping to finish part 2 by this weekend so I can get my next post written up (I took extensive notes during part 1, as usual...). Based on part 1 though, it definitely doesn't sound like RW has any interest whatsoever in doing a web-based thing, as the focus 100% will be on the e-commerce business, which there are grand plans for and the likelihood of success is greater.

      Oh, also, HKTV released a notice about their annual shareholders meeting, which will take place this year in May. I have a copy of the notice but haven't had a chance to read through the whole thing yet (it's 17 pages long and mostly legal jargon /financial info), but apparently, the topics they are going to discuss at that meeting will be re-purchasing of HKTV shares and also re-election / retiring of directors. I think this is the meeting where they are going to make everything "official" in terms of what each executive's role is going to be. I'll keep my eyes / ears out for any new information, but I think if there was any hope of HKTV continuing to be involved in anything related to entertainment (which I don't think they will, since RW was pretty clear on that piece), we would definitely know after that meeting.

  5. Sad, sad news indeed. Although I did think RW was fighting a losimg battle, I had hope to be wrong, hope HK Gov't has better sense of clarity, and hope HK entertainment as a whole would revive. He did give a good fight. HKTV will be missed.

    There are many things that TVB copied from HKTV before Flying Tigers. Sad thing is they only half-ass. Look at that series with Frank and Jessica. Total dumb rip off from To Be Or Not To Be. Then they used upgraded filming equipment but actual choreography and editing are still shitty as usual.

    RIP HK Entertainment from acting to singing to producing.

    Why is Indie-type start up not popular in HK? There are many Youtube sensation from singers to animators. I too hope RW continues with web based broadcasting.

    1. @jjwong: Completely agree! I was also hoping to be wrong about HKTV but no such luck of course. Ricky Wong actually did an interview with CRHK (Stephen Chan's radio show) a few days after the announcement and there were some things that came out from that interview that I found interesting. Of course, nothing changes -- they are still moving away from the entertainment business but at least the HKTV name will continue to live on via their e-commerce business.

      OMG, I get so ticked off every time I think about TVB "copying" HKTV or those who left and went back taking what they learned and applying it. But at least with the latter, they were honest about applying what they learned so I can't really fault them too much (RW actually talks about this a little bit in his CRHK interview)...the ones that make my blood boil are the obvious copies but no acknowledgment whatsoever (i.e. Law Dis-order copying The Election, Come with Me copying Sexpedia, Stealing Seconds copying Doom+5, Blue Veins copying Love in Time, Big White Duel copying Hidden Faces, Our Unwinding Ethos copying Karma, that new Chan Bo Wah series copying Incredible Mama..). Of course we all know My Unfair Lady copied To Be or Not To Be and Line Walker 2 copied Borderline but at least with both those instances, we already knew from the producers (Chu King Kei and So Man Chung) that they would do so, since they publicly acknowledged that they were going to apply what they learned from HKTV.

      As for why Indie-type startup is not popular in HK, it's mostly because of the restrictive environment over there in terms of entertainment and also the lack of government support. HK entertainment industry is very old-school still and favors big corporations / familiarity / status quo over innovation and creativity, though I guess in a way it's not just the entertainment industry -- society as a whole is like that. HK society doesn't like change and doesn't like it when people try to "rock the boat" or deviate too much from the status quo. The government also doesn't do much when it comes to the arts because it's not as important to them -- they've got bigger fish to fry so of course they aren't going to care. Because of this type of environment, the only way to survive (I'm talking maintaining success long term) if you're going to go into a field related to entertainment is to have some type of backing from a "big name" of some sort (whether an actual company or an individual)....otherwise, no way they are going to make it on their own.

    2. Funny is that I haven't waste my times watching those TVB you've listed; except third or half of My Unfair Lady. I'm so so glad I haven't. I would be extremely ticked off seeing the half-ass copies. Piss me off even more when I see articles or comments praised TVB. I'm like, omg you people are so TVB-washed. Open your eyes! Expect more for yourself... SMDH.

      That's very unfortunate how HK is. Look at Korea. Within less then a generation, they went from nothing to one of the leading entertainment country. K-pop, K-drama, K-idols are EVERYWHERE. I'm not a fan of them but I know so many people are and see how such a big influence they have. It's so sad that HK went from big bro from 80s-90s to a laughing stalk ;'(

      Are the interviews on youtube? Link?

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    4. @jjwong: I actually didn't watch any of those series either (luckily) but based on my family watching and also everything else I've read / seen about the series, the copy is pretty obvious. So far, the only TVB series I'm watching is Daddy Cool, which is actually a refreshing series with a great cast that has kept me entertained...outside of that though, not watching anything else and don't plan to at the moment.

      Yea, Korea is the biggest example that comes to mind when I think of government supporting the entertainment industry. With HK, the model is obviously different -- much of the cultivation of newer generation in filmmaking and television is done by people within the industry who are concerned about the art dying out. It's quite sad indeed how HK entertainment industry used to be the "Hollywood of the East" but now it's nothing but an empty shell.

      The Ricky Wong interview isn't on Youtube as far as I can tell (unless people uploaded the full interview on there from CRHK's site). I have a subscription to CRHK and so I just listen to their shows directly on their site. I was finally able to finish listening to part 2 last night -- hoping to type up something for my blog within the next couple of days...