Hong Kong Television Network's decision to launch an online shopping platform is an act of desperation, the controversial broadcaster's chairman admitted yesterday.
Ricky Wong Wai-kay announced last month that a 24-hour shopping channel and virtual mall would be part of HKTV's online and mobile television services. The company turned to online and mobile platforms after its application for a free-to-air licence was rejected by the government last year despite massive public support.
But explaining his plans to a sold-out crowd of business leaders at a General Chamber of Commerce lunch yesterday, the colourful entrepreneur admitted he had no interest in e-commerce as such and saw it merely as a way to pay the bills. Wong spent more than HK$300 million on programming in anticipation of getting a licence.
"I'm doing this only because I have been left with no other option," Wong said. "Producing television is still my main objective. I'm doing this stuff just to earn money … online television cannot rely on advertising."
The station could expect to make just HK$150 in advertising for every 1,000 views for its online video content, meaning it would be tough to make money from a standalone television network.
Wong said he had 100 retail brands on board for the e-commerce platform, which he hoped would be up and running by the end of the year. Rather than being a "Wai-kay department store" stocking many products, the new platform would be a "bridge" between retailers and customers.
Brands will not be charged a fee to promote their brands on HKTV but would have to pay commission.
Wong said last month that the shopping channel would be one of up to five HKTV offered.
A judicial review of the government's decision to refuse HKTV's free-to-air licence bid is to be heard in the High Court on August 27, with a decision expected before the end of the year.
HKTV has also been granted leave to seek a review of the government's handling of its plans for mobile television amid a dispute over the technical standard chosen for its broadcasts.
"We hope both judicial reviews can obtain a good response so we can provide entertainment programmes to citizens as soon as possible," Wong said.