It's now or never, says frustrated free TV player

HKTV airs online premier of thriller as boss tells rivals to pull out if they don't want licence now

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 June, 2013, 4:06am

PCCW and i-Cable should quit the race for free-to-air television licences if they don't want one now, Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV) boss Ricky Wong Wai-kay says.

"If you don't want the licence, drop your application," Wong told his rivals yesterday.

He was speaking before last night's online premiere of the first episode of HKTV crime thriller Borderline - the first time the station has offered a full run of any part of its yet-to-be released programme. Wong had pledged to show an episode when the channel's Facebook page reached 100,000 "likes" - a milestone it has just passed. "If I don't show it, fans will probably want to kill me," Wong said.

HKTV, PCCW and i-Cable Communications filed their applications for a free-to-air domestic TV licence more than three years ago but none has been granted. PCCW and i-Cable have agreed the licences should be postponed until 2015, when the licences of existing players TVB and ATV expire and they have to apply for a renewal.

"It's just like three students are scheduled to take an exam. Then one student calls in sick, the other says he hasn't done his revision. And you are asking the third student not to take the exam? They should just drop it and don't take this exam," Wong said.

Apparently keen to stay in the race, he strove last night to impress viewers with the first episode of Borderline. Starring former TVB veterans Liu Kai-chi, a Hong Kong Film Awards best supporting actor, and Dominic Lam Ka-wah, the big-production series was shot on location.

So Man-chung, who produced TVB's popular series Detective Investigation Files, is the chief director of Borderline.

Wong said the show deviated from TVB's conventional approach, looking to US dramas. While he was confident about the production quality, he said it would be tough to overcome the public's "emotional attachment" to TVB over the past 45 years.

Wong denied that the decision to air a full episode on HKTV's Facebook and YouTube channel was a result of pressure from staff, who have already produced eight TV drama series that have yet to see the light of day.

It was also not because HKTV could not wait any longer for the licence. He said the number of likes went up from 40,000 three weeks ago to over 100,000, and he was keeping his promise to show an episode. Wong also denied trying to win public support to force the government to grant the licence swiftly, "but if the number of likes goes up from 100,000 to 500,000 all of a sudden, the government should look into this".

The number of views was not immediately available from YouTube. About 3,000 Facebook users liked the episode within two hours of it airing. Most comments on YouTube were positive.