27 October 2016

Scratch the surface and you might find a gold mine under ATV

As if there has not been enough drama around the struggles of Asia Television Ltd. (ATV), the beleaguered broadcaster appears to have been thrown a cliffhanger of lifeline.

We can assume it will live to see off naysayers until its license expires next month — if it takes a HK$500 million (US$64.4 million) offer from China Trends Holdings.

And it may live on in a new guise as a vehicle for an internet-based TV venture.

All depends on Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, the broadcaster’s provisional liquidator, which has to decide on the proposal.

China Trends, one of ATV’s creditors, has submitted a debt restructuring plan that includes HK$500 million in emergency funding to allow the station to pay outstanding loans and wages.

Plus, it will inject an unspecified secured loan into ATV’s e-commerce and media business in exchange for 30 percent of profit or a 9 percent debenture.

Which shows us that ATV still has plenty to offer despite struggling to make ends meet.

China Culture Media, the current owner, has yet to pay ATV employees their February salaries.

Yet, the company hired back all staff retrenched by Deloitte after Culture Media failed to come up with the money to pay them as promised.

China Culture Media showed off its HK$10 million commitment in real money and check on camera.

But Deloitte, which Culture Media has been trying to remove as liquidator, said it received no more than HK$5 million.

What a messy affair.

But underneath all the ugliness is a gold mine — ATV’s online broadcasting rights in southern China

China Trends is targeting ATV’s landing rights in the Pearl River delta region where the broadcaster owns a 550,000 square-foot site in a content distribution hub.

That is why China Trends is confident it can rebuild ATV into an interactive TV platform through its strategic deals with mainland TV giants such as Skyworth, TCL and Changhong.

These agreements allow China Trends to pre-install the platform in at least 20 million TV units using a service model for watching and buying content that gives customers the option to pay or get a refund.

As one can imagine, the proposed business plan does not sit well with Culture Media which probably has similar ideas.

Otherwise, why in the world would anyone invest in a company with only three weeks to live?

Perhaps we should start throwing around a new business concept based on the assumption that ATV will last forever.

Never mind who the ultimate owner might be.

Much like Singapore fried noodles, or Yangzhou fried rice, ATV would have no one claiming exclusive right to it.

At least we can be sure the soap opera we have been treated to these past several months will have a sequel, although the public might actually want to see the curtains mercifully brought down on this painful saga.

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EJ Insight writer

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