Leading pay-television operator i-Cable Communications has formed three companies to diversify its revenue bases in the face of increasing competition from main rival PCCW, although analysts doubt the move will make much difference to its bottom line. The new entities - i-Cable News, i-Cable Sports and i-Cable Entertainment - were meant to enhance competitiveness by exploring business opportunities as separate content providers, chief executive Stephen Ng Tin-hoi said. He did not elaborate on the potential of content sales from the new firms or give an update on i-Cable's business performance in the past year. Although Mr Ng made no mention of market competition that prompted the move, i-Cable saw only a slow rise in its customer base from 702,000 to 718,000 in the first half of last year, while PCCW's Now Broadband TV passed the 500,000 figure in November, up from 441,000 at the end of June. The third licensed pay-television operator, Television Broadcasts' SuperSun, had about 40,000 subscribers at the end of July. I-Cable has long enjoyed the upper hand in the pay-television market, spending vast sums on securing the broadcasting rights to English Premier League soccer and the World Cup as well as committing itself to expensive news channels. However, too much weight had been placed on the earnings contribution from the sport programmes, CLSA analyst Elinor Leung said. PCCW had established an economy of scale with its users, who pay a monthly fee of not less than $100 each, which could enable Now to enter a bidding war for the Premier League rights when the contract came up for renewal in 2007-08, she added. 'I-Cable will have to overbid to retain the contract or lose out. Either way, it will dampen revenue, so I doubt setting up a new sales team will help a lot,' Ms Leung said. 'It makes commercial sense to diversify the revenue stream, but I don't think this will make much of a difference.'