HKTV may get worldwide audience but not in Hong Kong

Its local launch may have been postponed indefinitely, but network says overseas buyers are displaying a strong interest in its shows

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 March, 2014, 11:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 March, 2014, 9:16am

Hong Kong Television Network shows could be available to TV viewers across the region as early as autumn, but possibly not in Hong Kong.

Forced to postpone its local launch date indefinitely, the station is hoping to sell its programmes to overseas buyers in the third quarter of the year following discussions at Filmart, the largest industry trade fair in Asia, now under way at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.

Shut out of the city's free-to-air market by a failure to get a licence and with questions hanging over its plan for a mobile service, HKTV is offering 15 drama serial titles in 208 episodes and four variety shows with 68 episodes.

Chief executive To Wai-bing said there had been strong interest from international buyers and HKTV was in the final discussions for the sales. She said some buyers had offered to pay more than they did for TVB shows.

"We hope our shows can be released simultaneously around the region," To said.

She said interest had come from traditional television stations as well as mainland Chinese web TV portals.

But since HKTV's application for a free-to-air licence was rejected last October, and its mobile plan has been delayed because of the dispute over transmission standards, HKTV shows are likely to be available to overseas viewers earlier than viewers in the station's hometown.

"We hope Hong Kong can watch our shows too," To said. "We don't want Hong Kong to be left behind."

HKTV obtained a mobile TV licence by acquiring China Mobile Hong Kong in December for HK$142 million. It chose to adopt a transmission standard shared with TVB and ATV but the communications watchdog warned it could breach the Broadcasting Ordinance if its signals were able to reach more than 5,000 homes via rooftop antennas without a free-TV licence.

The station has invested more than HK$1 billion - including HK$1 million for each TV show episode - in the hope of launching a local service, but none of the shows have been aired because of continuous disruption to the launch.

Industry sources said television content was in demand, particularly on the mainland, where portals were willing to offer as much as one million yuan (HK$1.26 million) an episode for a drama show.

To said HKTV was considering uploading to the internet one episode of The Menu, an attempt to portray in a drama the current state of journalism and press freedom in Hong Kong. Featured plots include a media chief being attacked and media companies losing their freedom after being taken over by other companies.

She denied HKTV had any plans to acquire ATV or air its shows on the beleaguered station despite a surprise appearance by HKTV boss Ricky Wong Wai-kay on ATV's talk show News Bar Talk two weeks ago.

ATV has denied it has engaged in any deals with HKTV. Executive director Ip Ka-po said ATV would undergo a major revamp in May with new programmes and would "welcome independent productions to occupy ATV's air time".

He said ATV would produce a 100-episode sitcom and TV movies. Shooting of a drama series would commence in September.

While rival TVB had a big booth occupying the centre of the exhibition hall with its A-list stars to front its programme promotions, ATV did not have a booth at Filmart this year. Ip explained that the station did not have many productions for sale but would return with a bigger presence next year.

Both ATV and TVB are seeking to renew their broadcasting licences, which are due to expire next year.

Filmart this year has 770 exhibitors from 32 countries. It closes on Thursday.