Liu heartbreaker lifts i-Cable free online service

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2008, 12:00am

When mainland star athlete Liu Xiang made his shock exit from the Olympics on Monday, it was hot news in cyberspace.

I-Cable Communications said the video clip showing Liu pulling out from the men's 110m hurdles because of injury attracted more than 10,000 hits within an hour of being put on the company's portal.

I-Cable is betting free online video services will be a new growth driver after its online live video coverage of the Beijing Olympics generated a good response from Net surfers.

While some market watchers doubt a free service can be converted into a reliable revenue stream, i-Cable has high hopes. It needs to boost revenue after losing exclusive Barclays Premier League coverage to Now TV last year.

Last week, it said revenue fell 10 per cent in the first half as subscribers spent less on pay-television offerings.

I-Cable, which holds the exclusive new media rights to the Olympics in Hong Kong, said live Web coverage had drawn a phenomenal response. Its dedicated Olympic portal attracted 100 million hits and delivered close to 10 million video streams to viewers in the first 10 days of the Games.

'Exact revenue figures are not out yet but the project is certainly profitable in the broad sense,' an i-Cable spokesman said yesterday. 'We are looking at it in terms of the long-term development of our business.'

The spokesman said the experience gained in terms of business model, programming and delivery technology 'will be applied to our future new media broadcast projects, and this would help the growth of our business'.

The portal has attracted advertisers such as Visa and property developer Country Garden Holdings.

Treat for Now TV subscribers

PCCW's Now TV customers can record several television programmes on the news, business and Barclays Premier League football channels through a newly launched online recording service.

The new Now Record service enables users to record specific programmes on Now TV platform and the recorded content will be saved in Now's online server. Users can replay the programme within seven days.

More tidbits on newest free sheet

Media Eye has obtained advertising rates for the new free newspaper set to hit city streets in the third quarter.

A full-page ad with full colour will cost HK$130,500 in the imaginatively titled Financial Newspaper, while website advertisements will be between HK$19,800 and HK$130,500. At first glance, the newspaper appears similar to its competitors in layout and format.

'Based on the dummy of the newspaper, they are providing 'me too' content similar to other newspapers,' one industry watcher commented.

Another newspaper executive doubted whether there was demand for a free financial newspaper in Hong Kong.

'Hong Kong readers make local news and entertainment sections a top priority. Only a few of them will pick up the business section,' the executive said.

The paper also needed a selling point. 'They need a very strong news team for breaking stories. With the surge in newsprint costs, free-newspaper owners also face strict controls to keep their profit margins. If Financial Newspaper has a daily circulation of 200,000, it would cost the publisher HK$48 million in printing costs each year.'