The demise of ATV brings sadness and nostalgia, and also the promise of something new
The shift from conventional TV to online entertainment needs to be matched with new business strategies
After staying on air for almost 60 years, the time for the first television broadcaster in the Chinese world to switch off has finally come. For many who grew up with ATV and witnessed its rise and fall, the finale is as much sorrow as a relief.
The death knell has been ringing after the government decided not to renew its licence early last year. But instead of a graceful exit, the dying broadcaster was embroiled in lawsuits, wage disputes and confusing investment proposals during the countdown to pulling the plug. Critics joked that the broadcaster might be able to survive if its shows were as entertaining as its real life drama.
What remains of ATV now is perhaps just fond memories, as reflected in the outpouring of sorrow in certain quarters in society. The media has been awash with stories and anecdotes about the station over the past week. Many of its TV characters and episodes have long slipped out of the minds of viewers; but they once captured the hearts of many during the heyday of TV broadcasting. The underdog sometimes even managed to win over TVB with some original programmes, breaking up its long-standing habitual viewing. It was also the first to try out infotainment programmes and bring in Korean soap operas – now a popular genre throughout Asia.
ATV’s long list of highlights begs one question – Why has a once serious player come to such a miserable end? A wealth of factors is to blame: poor programme quality and advertising revenues, frequent ownership changes and credibility issues. The situation deteriorated further in the hands of investors with mainland backgrounds in recent years. If ATV itself is a drama, the plots for a tragic ending appear to have been long scripted.
To those who have been waiting eagerly for its denouement, the day has come too slowly and too late. But given its long and colourful history, the prevailing sadness and nostalgia among some people is understandable. The last time a free-to-air television station went off air was almost four decades ago. While no more players are currently seen as in danger of collapse, the industry is still facing tough challenges. The shift from conventional TV to online entertainment needs to be matched with new business strategies. Sorrow and nostalgia aside, the show must go on. The end of ATV is just the beginning of a new chapter. In a few days, another free-to-air TV station will be officially launched. It is to be hoped that the void left by ATV could soon be filled with more choices and better programmes.