Will TVB ever return to its glory days?

November 24, 2021 10:48
Photo: TVB annual report

A Chinese proverb said, “Thirty years on the east bank of the river, and thirty years on the west bank of the river”, meaning things are constantly changing and over the long run, it's almost certain that a period of boom will be followed by a period of decline (or vice versa).

Consider the case for Television Broadcasts (TVB), which celebrated its 55th birthday last week. The once mighty free-to-air broadcaster has experienced one of the largest value destructions in corporate history since Li Ruigang, aka Chinese Murdoch, took over. Years have gone but TVB is still trying to figure out how to play the new game.

At the three-hour variety show, TVB tried to entice its loyal viewers with a showdown of its own artists as well as the artists and singers it nurtured over the years. Although chairman Thomas Hui declared it showed “TVB is back”, it was still an unexciting show that was out of public favour.

Share price of TVB dipped to a 30 year-low of less than HK$5 earlier this week, about one tenth its market price a decade ago.

To put into perspective, at yesterday closing of HK$5.04, it had a market value of HK$2.2 billion or about a quarter of HK Technology Venture , which successfully transformed from a television business into an online shopping operation.

Who would have thought TVB would end up like a soap opera?

For decades, it was the No.1 media in Hong Kong. Its actors and actresses are all household names. In fact its TV drama series was one of the key reasons why different Chinese in other parts of the world could speak Cantonese. Not so long ago, it was also the No.1 TV station in Taiwan and Southern China.

Sadly, everything that could go wrong went wrong for TVB. The former mighty station not only lost its lustre, it has been struggling to survive.

For three consecutive years, the company reported losses because of poor macro environment, competitions and its own problem. The losing streak continued in the first half of this year.

Just like other Hong Kong corporates, TVB suffered from subpar advertising budget due to the social movement and the pandemic that slowed many economic activities.

Worse still, TVB has trouble winning the heart of young audience because of it’s been perceived as pro-China and pro-government, as reflected in news coverage and drama series.

Its rival, most notably, ViuTV, owned by PCCW, becomes increasingly popular among audience who look for creativity and entertainment.

In the first half, ViuTV’s boy band Mirror achieved impressive performance in the advertising market, according to local media.

That is also why Li told other media that he was very dissatisfied with TVB’s performance.

His comment triggered a new round of management reshuffle. But apparently there has been no ground-breaking change and the clock is clicking. TVB’s chance of bringing back its good old days still seems remote.

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EJ Insight writer