Regulator approves HKTV mobile deal

Communications Authority raises no objection to Ricky Wong's takeover

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 January, 2014, 2:57am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 January, 2014, 3:56am

Ricky Wong Wai-kay's Hong Kong Television Network has been given the final green light for its acquisition of China Mobile Hong Kong Corporation, clearing the way for it to launch mobile television by July.

The decision, announced yesterday by the Communications Authority, comes three months after the entrepreneur's hopes of launching a free-to-air service were dashed when the government denied him a licence.

The authority said it would not investigate the December 20 deal in which HKTV bought the China Mobile subsidiary - which operates mobile television station UTV - for HK$142 million.

"The decision is made on the basis of its assessment that the acquisition does not give rise to a concern that it may have … the effect of substantially lessening competition in the relevant telecommunications markets," it said.

Welcoming the decision, HKTV said it would devote its efforts to producing dramas, informative programmes and variety programmes. "We will provide another choice of high quality TV programmes for the local audience," a spokesman said.

Wong plans to rehire 320 staff fired in early October after the denial of the free-to-air licence. They will develop mobile services, which can be watched on mobile devices connected to a receiver or the internet.

HKTV plans to launch three to five internet channels, similar to services offered by the likes of Netflix, Hulu and WhereverTV.

The authority said China Mobile Hong Kong Corporation held a "unified carrier licence" and under the Telecommunications Ordinance, transactions involving such a licence would be subject to telecoms laws which regulate mergers and acquisitions.

The authority could have stopped the deal if it would have sharply reduced competition in the mobile television and mobile telecommunications market.

As the China Mobile subsidiary is the only operator specifically assigned with spectrum to provide mobile television services, its ownership change would not affect the competition landscape, the watchdog said.

As five existing mobile network operators also provide mobile content, the deal would enhance competition, it added. Broadcaster TVB is studying the possible effect of HKTV's mobile television plans. It has yet to submit any views to the authority.