New pay TV player pulls plug on bid

Move follows News Corp.-owned Star's exit

HONG KONG — Government plans to liberalize pay TV suffered another setback as a second new operator bailed out of the market, which some speculate is only big enough to support two or three players.

Hong Kong Network TV, a subsidiary of Internet player Sino-i.com, pulled out on March 16, three months after News Corp.-owned satellite broadcaster Star withdrew its license bid.

The government granted four new licenses last December with the expectation that new services would be rolled out this year.

Numbers not up

Seven-year-old incumbent Cable TV already has half a million subscribers, while iTV, a 3-year-old video-on-demand service owned by Hong Kong’s largest telco, has disappointing subscriber numbers and an uncertain future.

Free-to-air terrestrial network Asia Television plans to raise $128 million by listing on Hong Kong’s Nasdaq equivalent, the Growth Enterprise Market, within six months. CEO Feng Xiaoping intends to expand the company’s studios.

The announcement marks the latest step in a dramatic turnaround for the station, which has always lagged behind local rival TVB.

Feng heads a consortium of mainland Chinese interests that took over ATV in 1998 and has since forced the once-ailing net into profit.

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