Pay TV network has big hopes for high definition

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 August, 2011, 12:00am


Pay television network Fox International Channels (FIC) sees high-definition broadcasting as the way to consolidate its position in the market and will launch more channels in Hong Kong later this year.

FIC vice-president Rajesh Sheshadri, who is also head of its Hong Kong region, said he hoped some HD channels would be launched by the end of this year.

'In the other parts of Asia I think we've got some 15 HD channels and hopefully we will be making some announcement in the next couple of months (for Hong Kong),' he said. 'What is likely to happen is that each of our channels will have an HD version so you can either watch the channel in SD, or standard definition, or you can watch it in HD.'

Sheshadri said that, based on the group's experience in Singapore and Malaysia, once a subscriber became used to watching a channel in HD it was difficult to go back to SD, because of the difference in the quality of picture and sound.

'Especially for documentaries and movies, HD is just a completely different viewing experience.'

He said FIC is investing heavily in HD and believes its new channels, for which there was market demand, will help affiliates like PCCW raise subscriptions. Although people were spending more time on the internet, this was not at the expense of time spent watching TV.

Sheshadri said TV was not being watched only on television screens, but on mobile devices such as BlackBerry smartphones, or PC tablets or iPhones. Viewers then 'Tweeted' their friends about the programmes they were watching.

'So they watch the Oscars on TV, and then they are on Facebook talking about it. Social media is actually helping TV,' he said.

FIC broadcasts several channels in Hong Kong, including National Geographic, Star World and Star Movies, and has over a million viewers on a monthly basis, or one out of three Hong Kong subscribers.

'We have 26 channels in Hong Kong now and what we try to do is to present each of the channels with a distinct proposition,' Sheshadri said. This meant that subscribers could select exactly what content they wanted, from movies to documentaries, music and sports.

FIC is also pushing a localisation strategy. 'All of our channels are subtitled, some channels are dubbed in Cantonese,' he said, adding that this attention to language was only the beginning of the strategy.

FIC was also producing more culturally relevant local content for Hong Kong viewers. 'For example, we are making new documentaries in co-operation with RTHK that are completely Hong Kong stories, four of which are going to be out by December on the National Geographic Network.'

Though TV manufacturers are investing heavily in 3D TV sets, FIC has no plan to launch a 3D pay TV channel in the near future in Hong Kong because of high costs.

'When people move from SD to HD the cost of making that content isn't significantly higher. But to move the content to 3D the investment is considerable higher. We have to wait till the timing is right.'