18 January 2019
Lack of competition is the main reason why our TV industry is falling behind. Photo:HKEJ
Lack of competition is the main reason why our TV industry is falling behind. Photo:HKEJ

Why Hong Kong’s TV industry is going nowhere

It’s amazing that a rerun of TVB’s The Greed of Man has become a hit again in Hong Kong. The stock market-themed drama series has attracted lots of late-night viewers.

Some viewers say The Greed of Man, which was made more than 20 years ago, is of a much better quality than some of the broadcaster’s current crop of productions.

The latest issue of the Hong Kong Economic Journal Monthly looks into the matter to find out why our TV industry appears to be falling behind.

Cheuk Pak-tong, a professor at the cinema and television department of the Hong Kong Baptist University, said a lack of competition is the key problem.

“The city has no competition. Before, Hong Kong was the only place supplying entertainment to Chinese in Taiwan, mainland China and the Asia Pacific region as well. But now their TV industries have all greatly developed but Hong Kong still only has one main commercial broadcast company,” Cheuk said.

There are other reasons. Leung Tin Cheuk, assistant professor at the Department of Economics of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, pointed out that broadcast and advertising regulations in the industry are seriously outdated.

Hong Kong players, for example, would break the regulations set by the Broadcasting Authority if they intentionally showed branded products on a TV program. However, the rule is not applicable to overseas productions.

Also, local players are very short-sighted, according to Chan Hing-yuen, a Hong Kong media veteran.

Chan said the success of the entertainment industry in Korea can be boiled down to one thing: the intensive training that its artists undergo.

TVB used to have a training program for its performers, but it has been discontinued.

“It takes time to train people, so they just stopped doing it,” Chan said.

Moreover, even if the company is willing to invest in training, it keeps the artists mainly for themselves by making them sign long-term contracts.

This selfish and arrogant mentality doesn’t help develop the city’s cultural and creative business, he added.

The lack of competition has also dragged down the pace of technology development in the sector.

To illustrate how bad it is, the city has yet to be covered by digital broadcasting, which is basic for the next-generation broadcast technology.

Recently, mainland media tycoon Li Ruigang became one of the major shareholders of TVB. With an impressive record of producing popular shows such as The Voice of China and China’s Got Talent, Li is expected to bring serious changes to the industry.

TV broadcasting is seen as one of the most profitable mainland industries. One of the proven formulas for success in recent years is the acquisition of production rights of good quality overseas shows, which is what Li has been doing.

Take the singing contest program The Voice of China as an example. The production cost of the show was around 100 million yuan (US$16 million) for each season, but the profit was at least 1.5 billion yuan, Li said.

Most of the earnings came from advertising. Tencent has spent 200 million yuan to purchase the first-run rights of the show. On top of that, the technology giant has also signed a 1.4 billion yuan advertising contract with the program.

I am a Singer is another example. When it was first aired by Hunan Satellite TV, the price of a 15-second commercial was 86,000 yuan. As the show became more popular, the rate rose 50 percent to 130,000 yuan. The show was so well-received by audiences that it charged a minimum sponsorship fee of 100 million yuan.

The Voice of China was originally a TV show in Holland, while another popular variety show, Dad, Where Are You Going? is from South Korea.

The latter became such a smash hit that it generated related income sources such as a movie, mobile games, publications, travel and online shopping. 

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EJ Insight writer

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