Netflix is a challenge for Hong Kong’s broadcasters and regulators
The line between online streaming and traditional television broadcasting is increasingly blurred, and our regulators, like our industry players, need to be brought into the 21st century.
As if there is not enough turmoil in Hong Kong’s television industry, US online streaming pioneer Netflix is now in town and threatening to steal market share from established players. With its extensive library of international movies and television shows, it promises to shake up the local broadcasting landscape.
The long-troubled ATV is about to go out of business. RTHK has been told to take up some channels. But given it’s owned by the government, the variety and nature of its programmes cannot be too commercially oriented.
Meanwhile, HKTV caused a political storm when it failed to get a free-to-air licence from the government and is still struggling to find its niche. TVB, the dominant free TV player, will soon be the only free commercial TV service.
There is a possibility that HKTV will partner with Netflix by using its broadband network to stream the latter’s programmes. For now, Netflix’s programmes will be predominantly in English. As the vast majority of local viewers speak Cantonese, local language programming is a market that will be off-limits to Netflix for now.
But the US online company will pose the greatest challenge to NOW TV and iCable by invading their own turf of paid movies and video-on-demand services. With subscription plans in Hong Kong that charge only between HK$63 and $93 a month, the new service is highly competitive.
Netflix’s business here, part of its global expansion into 130 countries except China, will offer greater choice and cheaper services. That will benefit Hong Kong’s viewers. So local broadcasters, both free and pay TV, had better step up their game in the face of fierce competition from such a formidable and innovative player.
And not only local TV stations. As services like HKTV and Netflix show, the line between online streaming and traditional television broadcast is increasingly blurred. Local regulators, like our industry players, need to be brought into the 21st century.