【明報專訊】THOUGH ATV has to cease broadcasting in less than seven months, it has attracted the interest of an investor. Its new shareholder, who has made a huge investment, is believed to covet more than the television station in its current state.
As the Executive Council has decided not to renew ATV's free-to-air TV licence, the station has to cease broadcasting on 1 April 2016. That the new investor is willing to take over the station in spite of this shows that he is more interested in ATV's long-term prospects than its remaining life as a TV broadcaster. We are given to understand that, the new shareholder has proposed a 10-billion-dollar plan, aiming to build a media empire that will consist of ATV. But it is easy to see how risky the investment can be. After ATV's licence has expired, it has to apply for a new licence if it is to continue providing free-to-air TV service. As far as we know, there are at least two consortiums interested in the industry. Not only are they rich in financial resources, the modes of operation they propose are also very competitive. It is difficult to predict whether ATV will stand out among the rest and regain its licence.
Without a shadow of a doubt, those who are still working for ATV will welcome the new investor with open arms. For more than a year, ATV's original shareholders have not been in the public eye, and the television station has been in operational difficulty. ATV employees have not received their salaries on time. The changes that come with the new investment mean that ATV should not be short of funds any more. Still, a huge, immediate challenge lies ahead of ATV's new investor and employees. They have to figure out a way to turn ATV around and give it a new lease of life, so that it will be able to serve the public. They have to show that ATV is a worthy competitor in the industry and has the ability to survive. As ATV's new funds come from mainland China, it merits our attention whether things will go the same, familiar way. What particularly concerns us is the rather negative impression ATV has left with the public over the years. Great effort will be needed if ATV is to build up a new image of itself. Will ATV remain a player in the free-to-air TV market? It is all in its hands.
While ATV is faced with a new situation, several consortiums have recently expressed interest in gaining a share in Hong Kong's free-to-air TV market. They include a consortium led by David Chiu Tat-cheong, the second son of former ATV major shareholder Deacon Chiu Te Ken. It plans to invest $4.1 billion in the first six years of operation, and will provide services such as news, entertainment shows, financial news and sports programmes. Hong Kong Television Network Limited, whose last application was not successful, is to launch a new bid for a licence. A media group financed by mainland funds has announced that it will invest $6 billion in the development of its TV business in Hong Kong. The group is said to have obtained the television rights to three years' English Premier League matches for $4.7 billion. If the figure is correct, it has set a new record. Obviously, the group is very ambitious for its Hong Kong TV business. Netflix, a US provider of Internet streaming media, has announced that it will enter Hong Kong's TV market early next year.
Due to the weakness of ATV, Hong Kong's free-to-air TV industry has long been monopolised by TVB. The lack of competition has led to the continued deterioration of programme quality. To put it simply, the industry has been stagnating. If things go the way they should go, what is happening to the industry will eliminate the weak in favour of the strong. Instead of leaving things to chance, all the players in the market will have to improve if they want to survive. To the Hong Kong public, what is happening is good news - it promises programmes and services of good quality.