Hong Kong’s television and broadcast industry is set to be turned upside down.
The cash-strapped Asia Television Ltd. (ATV) may fold up by the end of next month. But at the same time, David Chiu Tat-cheong, the son of the late former owner of ATV, is leading a consortium to seek a free-television broadcasting license.
And mainland online entertainment company LeTV is joining the party. It plans to invest HK$20 million (US$2.6 million) and make the first TV drama in Hong Kong that will be shot in 4K or ultra high definition. The production cost of each episode is around HK$1 million.
The staff, including the director, producer and performers, are all from Hong Kong. Strictly speaking, though, it is not a 100 percent local production as the story is based on a successful mainland online book 天才在左，瘋子在右 (Genius on the Left, Maniac on the Right). The book essentially consists of transcripts of interviews with people who suffer from mental illness in China.
During the production launching ceremony, Mok Chiu-tin, LeTV’s chief executive for the Asia-Pacific region and a native Hongkonger, describes 2015 as “the darkest year in the city’s broadcast history”.
ATV is on the verge of closing down, and the event would leave Hong Kong people with only one broadcaster, which is known for its substandard productions.
Hong Kong is not the only place where the industry is experiencing a substantial loss of viewers. It is in fact a global trend, Mok said.
However, he stressed that audiences haven’t disappeared; they have just changed their viewing habits.
LeTV is not the only one which is targeting the city’s online viewers. Ricky Wong Wai-kay’s HKTV has been doing it since last year.
Although LeTV and HKTV have the same target audience, Mok said the group’s business model is quite different.
“HKTV still operates much like a traditional broadcaster, with fixed broadcast schedules and channels. We don’t use that approach. We have no fixed broadcasting schedule. Instead, our viewers decide when they would like to watch our productions,” he said.
In terms of business model, LeTV is more akin to Netflix, an online video content provider in the United States.
Advertisement is no longer their main income stream; instead, viewers have to pay a monthly fee for their contents. This model has proved to be quite successful in Netflix’s case.
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