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I-Cable leads Hong Kong feevee revamp

Paybox reorganizes to form three subsidiaries

HONG KONG — Pay TV in the region is getting a new look for the New Year, as three companies overhaul their offerings.

I-Cable Communications has revamped to keep abreast of growing competition.

The dominant paybox reorganized Jan. 1 to form three wholly owned subsidiaries under i-Cable Media — i-Cable News, i-Cable Sports and i-Cable Entertainment.

The news and sports platforms will be operated by Ronald Chiu, while Siuming Tsui will oversee entertainment.

“This will make our various operations units more focused on their respective tasks,” says Stephen Ng, chairman and CEO. “It will enhance the role of the three TV channel operations as individual content providers, and increase their flexibility in drawing up their own market and business strategies for further expansion of our content services to other markets.”

I-Cable had 710,000 subscribers at the end of June. PCCW’s Now Broadband has been hot on its tail, and in November announced it hit the half-million mark for subscribers.

Arena, exec director for PCCW, wouldn’t specify how many of those subs are paying customers, but says the company will release those figures during the next results presentation.

Launched in September 2003, Now Broadband continues to grow its subscriber base as well as its content and technology.

It has 90 channels, and this month began airing 24-hour news network CNN Intl., which has a Hong Kong studio.

Now Broadband recently positioned itself as a movie destination. HBO Family channel and HBO Hits channel will begin airing exclusively in February.

Video on demand is also on the slate. Star Chinese Movies and HDTV will follow early this year, Arena says.

Rival paybox Cable TV’s news and movie channels also got a new look.

On the news side, there will be individual channels for finance and information, as well as live news and top news, traffic and weather.

HMC will show Hollywood movies around the clock and will be included in Cable TV’s basic package.

Cable Movie 1 will be dedicated to big-budget local hits such as “Kung Fu Hustle” and “Seven Swords.” Cable Movie 2 will show Asian and international movies, such as “Mean Spirit” and “Tom yum goong.”

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