LeTV to spend big on new shows in Hong Kong expansion

Entertainment portal's executive slams TVB as he pledges to spend HK$1 million per episode

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 April, 2015, 12:29am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 April, 2015, 11:31am

LeTV, one of mainland China's largest entertainment portals, is splashing out up to HK$1 million per episode on its locally produced television dramas as it woos Hong Kong audiences.

But even as one of its executives criticised local broadcaster TVB for being unoriginal, he was reluctant to offer many details about what his own company was making.

Mok Chui-tin, LeTV's chief executive for the Asia-Pacific region, said the company was spending big as a newcomer to the city's market, where he had frank criticism for one of his new competitors.

TVB "is using a factory-style approach to produce dramas and so the dramas' contents, costumes, settings and everything else are similar," Mok said. "Mass production means a lack of personality."

He said he often heard people ask why half the dramas in Hong Kong were crime shows. "That's because many of them are produced by the same person."

But Mok said he respected Ricky Wong Wai-kay, chairman and founder of online broadcaster HKTV, for producing high-quality dramas. He was speaking before new broke yesterday of Wong's takeover of ATV.

Mok's comments followed an announcement last week by American entertainment giant 21st Century Fox that its Fox International Channels would spend US$1 million per episode on one or two locally produced miniseries.

Mok said LeTV had already shot one 20-episode drama locally about gamblers, based on an online work of fiction that he did not name and planed a second, also based on an online work of fiction.

That show is on "a topic you have not seen for many years," Mok said. "It's about a mental patient. It will be a big production and we are planning HK$1 million or more for each episode."

Mok would not identify the drama's cast, saying only that it consisted of well-known actors. He is planning to produce 20 to 30 episodes of the show.

He said the drama about the gamblers would go to air in the fourth quarter of this year.

Mok said it was more cost-effective for his company to simply buy content. But he said it was important for LeTV to produce dramas that appealed widely to Hong Kong's diverse population.

LeTV set up an office in Hong Kong in August last year with the help of InvestHK, a government body meant to attract businesses from the mainland and abroad.

The company only offers its paid subscription service - which includes original dramas as well as films and shows purchased from the mainland, United States, Korea and elsewhere - to viewers who own a television made by LeTV.

A 40-inch television costs HK$1,999. A bundled one-year subscription fee costs another HK$1,188 - but LeTV is currently offering a second year for free.

The company - which plans to open offices in Taiwan and Singapore this year - is also exploring user interfaces such as mobile platforms, to expand its local presence.