TVB starts direct talks with Olympic bosses
Olympic broadcast rights holder iCable faces being shut out of a deal to bring 200 hours of footage of the London Games on free-to-air television, after TVB started direct negotiations with the International Olympic Committee.
With just two weeks to go until the Games open, TVB said yesterday it had made an offer to the IOC to transmit 200 hours of coverage in collaboration with fellow free-to-air broadcaster ATV.
Its coverage would include the opening and closing ceremonies.
ATV's executive director, James Shing Pan-yu, says his company is 'actively involved' in the talks and expects an announcement soon.
The move follows the collapse of talks between the free broadcasters and iCable, which insisted on broadcasting much of its own advertising during the coverage.
Other issues included problems with the availability of Hong Kong's free-to-air channels in Guangdong, where state broadcaster CCTV holds the right to show the Games.
Under TVB's proposal, the company would 'evenly' share the coverage with ATV and the Games would be shown on the broadcasters' international channels, ATV World and TVB Pearl.
Commentary in Cantonese would be made available through digital technology.
Meanwhile, the city's sports chief yesterday reiterated the IOC had told him it would ensure a deal was struck to show the Games for free.
Sports Federation president and Olympic Committee chief Timothy Fok Tsun-ting admitted that commercial elements of the deal were complicated, but said the wishes of the Hong Kong people would be taken into account.
'Such an assurance has been given to me all along. I, as does everyone in Hong Kong, have the same hope,' he said. 'Earlier, it was said an announcement would be made soon, but ... there are many complicated commercial negotiations.'
iCable had no comment yesterday. The company gave the IOC assurances that the Games would be widely available when it won the right to show the event in 2007.
But the government has yet to make a decision on its application to run a free-to-air channel of its own.
It said on Tuesday that the IOC had agreed a deal over mainland coverage that would allow its negotiations with ATV to proceed.
iCable claims 80 per cent of households are technically capable of receiving its channels. However, just 1.1 million of the city's 2.3 million households subscribe to its channels.
TVB has urged the IOC to make its decision quickly so preparations for its co-production with ATV can start.