Channel scheduled to be on air by summer

HONG KONG — I-Cable’s paybox Cable TV is working out the details of a new channel that will resemble a free-to-air channel in terms of content.

Move is part of Cable TV’s efforts to hit up new markets and revenue streams after last year’s loss of rights to the EPL football matches, which PCCW’s Now Broadband TV secured for three years with a $200 million bid.

Cable TV has said it would use the money saved from the lost bid to diversify its programming.

We are “operating on a different concept” with the new channel, which is scheduled to be on air by June or July, said a Cable TV spokesman.

While Cable TV’s main business depends on getting subscribers, this channel probably will focus on viewership in order to attract advertising dollars. There will be a charge for the channel, but perhaps at a minimal rate.

A payment of $1.30 for life rate, which hasn’t been confirmed, but is a concept the paybox is working with, has raised some eyebrows, especially of the two free-to-air broadcasters in Hong Kong, Asia Television (ATV) and the dominant Television Broadcasts (TVB).

At issue is whether Cable TV will breach conditions of its pay TV license.

“Whatever we do will be in full compliance … of all the requirements,” the spokesman said.

The viewership focus most definitely means the channel will be Chinese-language. Content will match the format seen on free-to-air channels: news, dramas and music programs, some of which will be inhouse productions.

Tsui Siuming, who is executive director of programming services for Cable TV as well as president of the paybox’s film division Sundream Motion Pictures, will handle programming for the channel.

While a final investment figure hasn’t been confirmed, the spokesman said it should be a “high-eight-figure investment,” which would put it at less than $12.8 million.

Cable TV has already started a recruitment drive for the 100 programming and production positions that will be made available with the new channel. That “doesn’t mean we’ll hire 100 people,” he said, adding some positions will be filled internally.

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