ENTERTAINMENT

HKTV dramas to be screened first in Malaysia

Deal with major TV broadcaster means viewers there can see shows a day before Ricky Wong's station launches programmes in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 November, 2014, 4:25am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 November, 2014, 4:25am

Millions of Malaysians will be the first to tune in to dramas produced by HKTV, as a major television station in the Southeast Asian country will air shows a day ahead of the online station's launch in the city.

Malaysian station Astro has signed a deal with HKTV to broadcast and distribute Cantonese-language dramas produced by the station from November 18 on the Astro Shuang Xing channel, it was announced yesterday.

Astro, which has pay-television, radio, publications and digital media interests, is broadcast to 4.2 million households, 60 per cent of Malaysian homes.

HKTV dramas will also be available across Southeast Asia, New Zealand and Australia as Astro also owns the rights for these regions.

Choo Chi Han, vice-president of Astro's Chinese customer business, said the introduction of the HKTV dramas would enrich the content of Astro, which operates 172 television channels.

He said the shows would also be offered in its on-demand television service and on other devices under its on-the-go service.

According to Malaysian government statistics, Malaysia had a total population of 28.6 million in 2010, of whom 22 per cent were ethnically Chinese.

Chinese-language content, primarily Hong Kong entertainment shows, play a key role, Choo said in previous interviews.

Hong Kong free-to-air giant TVB, which celebrates its 47th anniversary on November 19 - the same day that HKTV launches its interactive entertainment and shopping platform in the city - has a strong presence in Malaysia. Astro carries TVB's Classic, Entertainment News, Xing He and TVBS Asia channels.

HKTV declined to reveal the value of the deal but said it has 22 drama titles ready. HKTV spends an average of HK$1 million to produce each drama episode.

The 22 titles include crime thriller Borderline, which had one episode debut on YouTube, and The Election, a political drama about murky goings-on in a chief executive election race starring award-winning actors Angelica Lee Sin-jie and Liu Kai-chi.

Singaporean teacher Elaine Lai, 24, said TVB might still have an advantage in Southeast Asia. "Most of us prefer Hong Kong shows to local shows," she said. "Despite [TVB's] recent stagnation, they have risen well by making an impactful comeback."

She said HKTV "looks good" but the familiar faces in TVB dramas were an advantage. She said HKTV's ability to draw audiences would depend on the quality of the productions.

HKTV intended to launch a free-to-air service when boss Ricky Wong Wai-kay applied for a licence. But his bid was rejected by the Executive Council last year, sparking protests outside government headquarters.

Wong then acquired a mobile television licence, but saw his plans rejected on technical grounds. HKTV is now making its programmes available to stream through computers, mobile apps or set-top boxes, which does not require a government licence.

HKTV also plans to launch HKTV Mall, a shopping and entertainment platform.