ATV - Asia Television Limited

Legal drama behind late deal for free Olympic TV

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 July, 2012, 12:00am

Broadcaster iCable last night withdrew a breach-of-contract lawsuit it had filed against rivals ATV and TVB just hours before a governmentbrokered deal to ensure free coverage of the Olympics was struck.

The cable provider had on Tuesday asked the High Court to prevent the two free-to-air broadcasters 'conspiring' to cut a coverage deal in violation of its 2007 licence agreement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The papers filed with the Court of First Instance also sought to hold ATV to the terms of its June 6 compromise with iCable, which would have allowed the terrestrial broadcaster to show some of the London Games on its English-language channel, ATV World.

iCable's lawsuit was filed just hours before the three broadcasters and Commerce and Economic Development Secretary Greg So Kam-leung hammered out a final plan to show a total of 200 hours of Olympics action free to air.

The court papers were made public yesterday, providing even more evidence of the level of hostility between the three broadcasters as they battled over the rights to show the Games.

Last night, iCable released a statement saying it had withdrawn the lawsuit and that its agreement with ATV and TVB 'will be unaffected'.

Free-to-air coverage of the Games had been in doubt for months after iCable's efforts to start a free channel of its own failed to get government approval and contingency talks between ATV and TVB stalled.

Yesterday, the terrestrial broadcasters were scrambling to draw up last-minute plans for coverage of the Games. TVB and ATV are set to hold a joint news conference today to announce broadcast details.

For a 'reasonable' fee to iCable, the two companies will be allowed to evenly split the coverage, which starts next Friday. The 200 hours includes next Friday's opening ceremony, which will be shown by both free-to-air broadcasters.

Development secretary So said the talks were fraught with difficulty, but the broadcasters eventually 'acted on the basis of the public's expectations'.

TVB spokesman Tsang Sing-ming said the station had already sent hosts Astrid Chan Tze-ching and Wendy Hon Yuk-ha to London on Sunday to prepare its coverage.

But it is unlikely that Hong Kong's sole Olympic gold medalist, windsurfer Lee Lai-shan, will feature in the coverage because the deal was struck so late. 'We have only about 10 days to prepare for our Olympics programme,' Tsang said.

The Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies said yesterday it was unable to comment on how the 11th-hour agreement would affect advertising arrangements.


The number of hours of talks that took place on Tuesday before a deal was struck between iCable and the free-to-air broadcasters