Jimmy Lai to sell Next TV

Company best known for animated takes on news stories

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai is selling his loss-making Taiwan TV unit Next TV, best known for its animated takes on news stories, citing big financial losses and the “complicated environment” on the self-run island.

The Hong Kong-listed Next Media signed a memorandum of cooperation with Taiwanese cable operator Era Communications, and a final contract of sale is due to be signed next month.

Next TV has run up losses of over $340 million since it was founded in Taipei in September 2009, according to a report by Next Media’s Apple Daily newspaper, and the sale will involve 500 layoffs at the TV unit.

Jimmy Lai is a vocal critic of Beijing and this has led him into difficulties as relations between old enemies Taiwan and mainland China become warmer, especially as advertisers are increasingly reliant on China’s goodwill to keep business ticking over.

Next magazine and the Apple Daily newspaper have both been commercial successes and will not be affected by the sale.

The channel has been churning out more than 30 computer-animated dramatizations of news events every day, and some of their reports, including their take on the Amy Chua Tiger Mom debate and Tiger Woods’ marital difficulties, went viral worldwide.

In a brief letter to employees of his Next Media Group, Lai apologized for his “failure” in running Next TV.

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