I.O.C. asked to act on i-Cable deal
Days before a last-minute deal for free broadcasts of the London Olympic Games was offered, the IOC was asked to intervene in stalled talks between free-to-air stations and rights holder i-Cable, it emerged yesterday.
Pang Chung, honorary secretary general of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, confirmed that the group had informed the IOC of the stalled discussions earlier this month. He stressed that the committee did not take any side over the issue.
'We are just a neutral body that reflects the situation here to them [International Olympic Committee], hoping they can intervene to facilitate a resolution. They entered into a contract with the broadcasters and not us,' said Pang, who was on a business trip to Dubai yesterday.
On Wednesday, i-Cable revealed what it called a final offer to the two free-to-air television broadcasters, TVB and ATV, in an attempt to meet the IOC requirements that at least 200 hours of free Games coverage would be provided.
Pang, however, could not say what follow-up action the IOC took, including whether it was looking into i-Cable's audience reach.
The company claims that 80 per cent of households are technically capable of receiving its services, but just 1.1 million of the city's 2.3 million households subscribe to its channels.
A spokeswoman for i-Cable only said the pay-TV station had been in contact with the IOC, following the IOC granting it broadcast rights.
In response to inquiries, a spokeswoman for the Geneva-based IOC refused to confirm whether it had intervened or not.
'The IOC understands that i-Cable is continuing its discussions in order to make this possible,' said IOC media relations manager Sandrine Tonge. She said that as a part of the broadcast agreement, the IOC required i-Cable, which is a pay television provider, to provide at least 200 hours of Olympics coverage for free-to-air television.
ATV and TVB would have to pay US$1 for the rights to show the Games on their four channels, but could only show 400 minutes of their own commercials in the 250 hours of broadcasting, with i-Cable advertising shown the rest of the time.
ATV agreed to broadcast the event on its English-language channel, but TVB, which dominates the free-to-air television market, rejected the concession which it described as 'robbing its channels and legitimate business interests'. It said it was willing to pay more for the sub-licensing right for more control of the broadcast.
A spokeswoman for i-Cable said there was no update, while TVB could not be reached for comment.
Another problem facing ATV is whether i-Cable would provide English programming or would the free channel be allowed to run coverage in Cantonese.
A spokesman for ATV yesterday said it had to sort out details of the deal with i-Cable.
It is understood details included broadcasting content, transmission signals and language.