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How the internet is pushing back the frontiers of TV industry

In recent months, the Hong Kong TV market has seen a lot of breaking news.

LeTV announced a new TV rights deal with the English Premier League, US online TV streaming service Netflix said it will come to Hong Kong next year and Forever Top (Asia) Ltd. invested HK$4.1 billion (US$529 million) in a new TV network.

And don’t forget ATV, whose license will expire in six months. It found a “white knight” and got a HK$10 billion lifeline

Although TVB’s market dominance is unlikely to change anytime soon, competition will become increasingly fierce with more players coming on stream.

It’s ironic that in 2013, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the government will not issue more than two new TV licenses out of concern that too many competitors might lead to cutthroat competition and undermine the overall quality of productions.

However, after the High Court ruled in favor of HKTV in April in a challenge to the Executive Council’s decision to reject its application for a free-to-air license, the way is clear for more participants.

Meanwhile, ATV’s savior, Qingdao-based Sino Group, has raised public concern over whether the TV station will adopt an even more pro-Beijing stance and whether chairman Si Rongbin will interfere in the day-to-day management of the station.

The Communications Authority is yet to give the green light to the deal. The Broadcasting Ordinance prohibits the acquisition of more than 2 percent of a local TV network by any non-Hong Kong resident.

There is also growing concern that there is not enough space for local TV productions when viewers have access to a much wider range of foreign productions after the new networks start to operate.

Also, will they tailor their productions to suit mainland tastes?

As TV audiences in Hong Kong continue to age, it remains to be seen whether the majority of our TV viewers, most of whom are already in their fifties and beyond, will change their viewing habits and adapt to internet TV.

It is also unclear whether the new broadcasters will remain focused on the local audience or tap more into the mainland market.

I hope the advances in internet technology can one day change the behavior of the general public toward television and that the choices can be truly opened up.

This article appeared  in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 14.

Translation by Alan Lee

Office Of Hon. Charles Mok, Legislative Councillor (IT)