Partners ink Hong Kong video-on-demand deal

HONG KONG — Four local companies are teaming up to offer video-on-demand to local TV audiences, a move that could put them in direct competition with the territory’s lone cable provider and a major phone company that plans to launch an interactive television service later this year.

The four players in the joint venture are Mei Ah Intl., with a 30% holding, Chinaland Intl. Industrial (25%), Maximum Potential (25%) and Win’s Movie Investment (20%). Mei Ah’s chairman, Li Kuo-hsing, will chair the joint venture.

In a statement, the partners said they are in the process of conducting a feasibility study. If the study shows there’s money to be made, they will go ahead with a launch in January.

No word yet on how much they plan to sink into the venture.

The study will have to take into account the big names already in the market. Phone company Hongkong Telecom has said it plans to launch a video-on-demand service in July. And Wharf Cable, which holds the cable television monopoly, offers HBO as well as its own pay-per-view films.

The new company plans to capitalize on each of the partners’ existing businesses to develop and sell the venture. Mei Ah distributes Chinese-language videos and Win’s is a film production company. Together, they plan to license at least 1,200 movies to the new company.

The companies have not said which areas of the territory will get the service first. A digital server would be installed in each building and different movies would be offered in different locations, depending on the demographics. One local newspaper, the South China Morning Post, has speculated that the two property developers in the partnership will install the service in the apartment buildings they control.

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