Phoenix unveils HK$2.37 billion plan for terrestrial TV channels in Hong Kong as it seeks free-to-air licence

Phoenix Hong Kong Television details its strategy to secure one of the coveted local licences, and its 10 years of experience could give it an edge, expert says

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 10:20pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 11:20pm

The latest aspirant looking to enter the highly competitive free-to-air television market in Hong Kong has pledged to invest HK$2.37 billion in its first six years of operation.

Phoenix Hong Kong Television, which is based in the city, on Friday detailed its strategy four days after it was revealed the satellite broadcaster had submitted an application in May to the broadcasting regulator for a “domestic free television programme service licence in Hong Kong with digital terrestrial transmission”.

But Phoenix’s budget looks poised to be eclipsed by the HK$4.1 billion ambitions of Forever Top – a consortium that has since last year expressed interest in bidding for one of the coveted local licences.

Maverick businessman Ricky Wong Wai-kay’s Hong Kong Television Network has also vowed to spend more, with HK$3.45 billion earmarked for its initial six years if it is awarded a licence.

But Grace Leung Lai-kuen, lecturer at Chinese University’s school of journalism and communication, said Phoenix’s decade-long experience could give it a competitive edge in the process.

Broadcaster Phoenix seeks Hong Kong free-to-air television licence

In its submission to the Communications Authority, Phoenix said it would invest HK$623 million in programming and HK$1.62 billion on operations.

It plans to operate a Cantonese-language channel and English-language one. While the Cantonese channel will be a general entertainment outlet providing a range of self-produced and acquired programmes, including news, the English channel will air documentaries, current affairs, arts and culture content.

Hong Kong Television said it would operate a three-channel service comprising Cantonese, English and news shows, while Forever Top’s proposed three free channels would encompass Chinese programming and sports.

Six degrees of separation from Hong Kong Television Network’s Ricky Wong

Phoenix, whose related station serves mainly mainland China via satellite broadcast, intends to provide its new service in the form of digital terrestrial television by making use of the digital spectrum withdrawn from defunct broadcaster Asia Television, whose free-to-air licence expired in April.

Forever Top plans to make nearly half of its productions locally. Phoenix has not specified how many hours of its programming would be self-produced and how much acquired.

Phoenix said control and management of the proposed new channels would take place in Hong Kong, amid concerns its mainland background may restrict programming choice.

“Phoenix should target a certain group of viewers, such as those who have come from the mainland or have a passion for mainland affairs,” Leung said.

The public can comment on Phoenix’s application before November 3 by contacting the authority.