Lifeline for i-Cable to stay on air
Consortium of investors led by local property magnate David Chiu Tat-cheong and New World Development boss Henry Cheng Kar-shun keep cameras rolling
Hong Kong’s biggest pay-television provider i-Cable Communications has won regulatory approval to renew its license, as the ailing Hong Kong broadcaster managed to keep itself afloat following the arrival of a heavyweight white knight.
The city’s Communications Authority has also given the green light to a proposed change of shareholders, with the introduction of a consortium of investors led by local property magnate David Chiu Tat-cheong as well as New World Development boss Henry Cheng Kar-shun.
The news will offer great relief to the company and its staff, with the consortium promising to extend a lifeline to the firm whose multiple years of steep losses parent The Wharf (Holdings) to halt any more funding to the embattled firm.
The pay-TV service of i-Cable is run by subsidiary Hong Kong Cable Television, which produces more than 10,000 hours of programming each year. i-Cable also runs an internet and multimedia operation.
“The Communications Authority is satisfied the introduction of the [new] underwriter as a new investor in HKCTV and FTV is in compliance with the applicable requirements under the Broadcasting Ordinance, the Pay TV Licence and the Free TV Licence,” i-Cable said in a statement.
Hong Kong’s broadcasters have been struggling to stay on air as emerging entertainment options such as live streaming sites have bitten into traditional media stations, resulting in shrinking advertising revenues.
In late April, Forever Top, the consortium chaired by Chiu, proposed a HK$1 billion (US$128 million) equity injection to i-Cable. Investors also included Zhao Huan, executive director of mainland technology giant Legend Holdings and Guangzhou R&F Properties chairman Li Sze-lim.
The mainland backing had previously sparked concerns among the city’s pundits over their potential influence on the independence and neutrality of the i-Cable newsroom.
The new investors say they aim to build the broadcaster’s financial news coverage, as well as online streaming services – a burgeoning industry powered by technology firms such as Netflix.