Losses widen at iCable amid higher costs

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:11pm

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Unfazed by a larger first-half net loss, i-Cable Communications plans to continue investing in premier programming, while pursuing a new strategy that brings its content to a range of mobile devices and platforms.

The pay-television and broadband internet services provider yesterday reported a net loss of HK$96.89 million for the six months ended June 30, up from HK$54.75 million a year earlier, mainly due to higher network and marketing costs, and programming expenses related to its exclusive broadcast of major soccer leagues.

In a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange, i-Cable posted a modest decline in consolidated revenue to HK$1.04 billion from HK$1.05 billion the previous year.

It also saw a decrease in subscribers at both its pay-TV and broadband services divisions.

The company, which is 74 per cent owned by conglomerate Wharf Holdings, said its capital expenditure in the first half rose 28 per cent to HK$113 million from HK$88 million a year ago. Major items included high-definition set-top boxes, a call-centre telephone system upgrade, and TV production and broadcast facilities for its HD channels and its coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

It was reported that i-Cable paid HK$120 million for the Hong Kong broadcasting rights of the Summer Olympic Games this year. Both of Hong Kong's free-to-air channel operators, Television Broadcasts and Asia Television, have also forged sub-licensing deals with i-Cable to show some programming from the London Games.

As the official broadcaster of the London Games, i-Cable has initiated what it described as 'a cross-platform strategy' that brings more than 1,600 hours of programming in multiple formats. These comprise nine dedicated Olympic cable TV channels, its website, and six streaming channels for users of smartphones and media tablets.

'We endeavour to make better use of the internet and mobile platforms to attract younger customers and those whose daily schedules do not permit long viewing time at home,' i-Cable said.

Market research firm IHS define such an plan as 'a multi-screen strategy', which involve access to content via smartphones, media tablets, video game consoles, personal computers, and internet-enabled televisions.

It forecasts the total number of multi-screen devices active on global pay-TV networks to swell to 303.7 million units in 2015, up from 29.5 million in 2010.