Fantastic TV set to be third free-to-air player on Hong Kong market, but real test is online, experts say

Subsidiary of i-Cable Communications will have to adapt to new media eventually, with overall falling TV viewership

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 May, 2017, 7:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 May, 2017, 9:24pm

A third player in Hong Kong’s free-to-air television market will launch on Sunday, but amid the changing media landscape for broadcasters, the battleground remains on the internet, industry insiders say.

Fantastic TV – which is operated by i-Cable Communications – will be a new Cantonese station on channel 77 offering 24 hours of family entertainment programmes in both high definition and analogue formats.

However, unlike rivals TVB and ViuTV which have mobile apps and millions of registered users, the newcomer has yet to make its online presence felt.

Fantastic TV will offer viewers familiar faces like veteran actress Louise Lee Sze-kei starring in a reality travel show with her daughter, and comedian Chapman To Man-chak on a food programme.

The station has declined the Post’s request for an interview.

Derek Yip, general manager of buying at OMD, a multinational media communication company, said: “Fantastic TV will offer something different to viewers in Hong Kong.”

“I have been to their previews and seen their programmes. Their strategy is to use well-known stars instead of new faces like what ViuTV does.”

The launch of Fantastic TV also comes amid uncertainty – consortium Forever Top, led by property magnate David Chiu Tat-cheong, proposed a HK$1 billion rescue plan last month to keep struggling i-Cable afloat.

The challenges facing new stations were captured in a research by OMD on the first year of ViuTV’s operations. ViuTV was launched in April last year and is owned by HK Television Entertainment under Richard Li Tzar-kai’s PCCW.

Upon its launch, ViuTV made headlines with the reality show Travel with Rivals which featured former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing and lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung.

In the first three months, the station scored a four-point rating, with one point representing 70,000, or 1 per cent of Hong Kong’s population.

Free-to-air broadcaster Fantastic Television stalls its over-the-air plans, Hong Kong authority says

But ratings gradually fell to less than one point in the latest quarter.

In April last year, all peak-hour programmes on TVB had ratings of more than 20 points.

In order to expand its reach, ViuTV is now changing its strategy, with a new emphasis on family-based drama programmes rather than niche offerings.

Yip noted, however, that ViuTV did well on new media and social media.

Over the span of one year, app downloads have hit two million, and the station has built up a significant Facebook following.

“The media landscape has changed a lot – now it is not just about the television at home, but also apps, social media, and others,” Yip said.

In addition to its solid lead in traditional ratings, market leader TVB has also targeted the new media market.

TVB’s video-on-demand app MyTV SUPER already has more than three million downloads, according to Winnie Ngai, deputy controller of the programme division at TVB.

“Nowadays, there is more content available everywhere. Many of them are very good as well as free, so the demand of viewers is higher, while there is also more reluctance to pay for content,” Ngai said.

“We are working to adjust to the changing environment. Hong Kong has about two million television screens at home, but TV viewership has been declining.

“Now we are looking at about eight million personal screens – on mobile phones, iPads, desktops and other platforms,” Ngai said.