NOW TV seals rights to HBO and Star

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2005, 12:00am

PCCW programme unit's exclusive contract deprives rival i-Cable of prime channels

PCCW's NOW Broadband TV yesterday announced it had secured exclusive Hong Kong broadcasting rights to popular film channels such as HBO, Cinemax and Star Movies, all of which are aired by arch-rival i-Cable Communications.

'We have positioned NOW as the movie house for home entertainment,' said PCCW executive director Alex Arena.

NOW has signed new contracts with content providers Star Group and HBO Asia Pacific, the company said yesterday.

Star Group has granted NOW exclusivity for its 11 channels until 2011, while the new HBO agreement gives it exclusive rights to HBO and Cinemax from July next year until 2014.

HBO and Cinemax are now carried as premium channels on i-Cable.

Analysts said the new agreements reflected the increasing confidence in NOW's revenue sharing model among content providers.

'The subscriber numbers HBO and Star are getting from NOW seem to be higher than those from i-Cable,' said Vivek Couto, executive director of Media Partners.

It also demonstrates a focus on news and film as a means of differentiating itself from pay television competitors i-Cable and SuperSun, which have used sports programming as their principal subscriber draw.

Star World, Fox News and Sky News will now only be seen on NOW channels.

NOW has about 400,000 subscribers for its 74 television and radio channels. i-Cable has more than 700,000 subscribers, while SuperSun has a little more than 30,000. NOW plans a single foray into self-produced content with the establishment of a 24-hour Chinese-language financial news channel.

PCCW has appointed media veteran Loh Chan to head the channel, according to deputy chairman and managing director Jack So Chak-kwong.

'This will be the only content we produce,' Mr So said.

NOW also plans to launch a 'time shift' service, along with video-on-demand and television shopping services, to enhance programme interactivity.

Also on the cards is Hong Kong's first high-definition television service, which will begin not later than the beginning of next year, Mr So said. He said PCCW's broadband network infrastructure was ready to support high-definition programming, and the company would soon upgrade its download speeds to eight megabits per second.