Hong Kong toons up

TNT & Cartoon Net finally find Asian home

HONG KONG — After years of lobbying, Turner Broadcasting has finally landed a coveted spot for its TNT & Cartoon Network on Wharf Cable, the sole cable operator in this city.

And Wharf, for its part, has nailed another movie channel to deploy in its upcoming battle against Hong Kong Telecom’s video-on-demand service, which launches later this year.

11 million households

When the 24-hour TNT & Cartoon Network goes on the air Jan. 18, the service then will be available to about 11 million households via virtually every major cable system in the Asia Pacific region. It’s always bothered Turner that, due to space constraints on the cable system, the movie and cartoon net was not available in its Asia headquarters city.

“The launch of TNT & Cartoon Network in Hong Kong is a significant step for Turner,” said Mike Byrd, managing director of Turner Broadcasting System, Asia Pacific. “Hong Kong is a very important market for Turner and its networks.”

At the deal signing Wednesday, Wharf also renewed its agreement to distribute CNN Intl. CNNI has been on Wharf since the cable operator launched four years ago.

Wharf has close to 390,000 subscribers in the city of 6.5 million people and 1.5 million households.

“We have no doubt that the addition of these programs will greatly enhance our program offerings,” said Stephen Ng, Wharf Cable’s chairman and managing director.

Battle for the hearts

In its battle for the hearts and minds of Hong Kong’s film buffs, Wharf already offers eight pay-per-view movie channels and two basic 24-hour movie channels that show mostly local films. HBO is offered as a premium service and MGM Gold gets a four-hour daily block on the basic tier for its classic films.

Unfortunately for Turner, TNT & Cartoon Network initially will be available to just one-third of Wharf’s subscribers, the ones who are already on the fiber-optic network. Wharf expects to convert the remainder of its microwave network to fiber optics within two years.

Byrd acknowledged it was disappointing not to get full exposure immediately, but he believes that Wharf will provide the toons and movies to all subscribers as soon as the network gets a chance to prove itself.

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