A virtual shopping mall offering products from 200 to 300 outlets is the latest angle being pursued by Ricky Wong Wai-kay to achieve his mobile television dream, which has stalled due to legal complications.
The chairman of Hong Kong Television Network said the company plans to roll out a 24-hour shopping channel, offering an alternative for shoppers weary of crowds and chain stores.
"There is such a business opportunity in Hong Kong … there aren't any large-scale virtual shopping platforms offering a wide range of products that are of guaranteed quality," Wong said, adding that he rejected the belief that shopping through television or the internet was doomed to fail in a city that markets itself as a shoppers' paradise.
Should his wider plan to launch a mobile television service move forward, Wong said he plans to run as many as five channels, including one in Cantonese, a news channel and the 24-hour shopping channel.
The Broadcasting Ordinance states that free television stations cannot devote more than 10 minutes of each hour to advertising between 5pm and 11pm, while advertising time outside of that period cannot exceed 18 per cent of the total broadcast time.
But mobile television is not subject to these advertising restrictions. "We can run a 24-hour shopping channel. It's something that neither TVB nor ATV could do," Wong said.
Two weeks ago, HKTV applied for a free-to-air television licence again, with a total projected investment of HK$3.4 billion over six years - six times more than the investment outlined in its original application from four years ago. The number of planned channels has been scaled back from 12 to three.
Wong rejected suggestions that the increased investment was to address problems with the original application that was rejected by the government in October. "We still don't know why we failed," he said, adding that the 24-hour mobile-television shopping channel would not affect the latest free-to-air licence application.
Wong also denied rumours of a future tie-up between HKTV and ATV.
Wong said shops in the city have become homogenised, largely due to high rents, and increasingly cater to mainland shoppers. Busy Hongkongers were looking for an online solution. "When people shop, they are looking for a delightful experience. But is shopping at malls still pleasant?" he asked.
Wong said he has been in talks with a number of retailers, and that the service planned to focus on selling "middle- to upper-class goods" rather than fastselling items such as shampoo and toilet paper.
Whether the project stands a chance depends on the judicial review that HKTV filed on April 11. The company asked the court to clarify the definition of mobile television in light of its disputes with the Office of the Communications Authority.
Ofca had warned that HKTV could breach the Broadcasting Ordinance if its mobile-television signal could be received by ordinary televisions. HKTV argued that mobile-television licences are issued under the Telecommunications Ordinance, not the Broadcasting Ordinance.
HKTV also asked Ofca to clarify if it would approve the mobile licence bid if HKTV used a different transmission standard to the one used by ATV and TVB. Ofca said it would not make such a clarification while the judicial review is taking place.