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Telco PCCW opens Chinese portal

Now.com.hk to beef up Chinese-language fare

HONG KONG — Local telco PCCW will revamp its troubled broadband content provider Network of the World.

The company revealed Tuesday that it was forming a new portal, www.now.com.hk, with the help of eight Hong Kong content providers — including terrestrial channel TVB and the Mei Ah Entertainment Group — in an effort to beef up its almost nonexistent Chinese-language fare. The portal will start operations next month.

Readjusting for future

It’s a move that reflects PCCW’s dramatically reduced ambitions. When NOW ( www.now.com) was launched June 30, company chairman and chief executive Richard Li proclaimed it would one day compete with media giants like AOL Time Warner.

The company planned to spend $1.5 billion over five years on developing broadband and TV content. It has since said it will cap spending at $190 million this year and $100 million for each of the next two.

Its latest announcement is a glorified tidy-up aimed at better integrating PCCW’s Internet properties with those of Hong Kong Telecom, which it bought in a dramatic takeover at the height of the Web bull market last year.

The company’s stock has shed more than 60% this year, hovering around 24¢.

Prod’n picture

Obvious loose ends have been left hanging. PCCW’s studios in London — long suspected to be the prime target of the restructuring — will continue to produce content for the http://www.now.com portal.

Talks between TVB and PCCW about the Hong Kong pay TV arena are unresolved, despite the former’s participation in the new portal. ITV, PCCW’s ailing video-on-demand service, will not be integrated with NOW, possibly a signal that a pay TV deal with TVB is being resolved.

TVB’s yet-to-be-launched pay TV service, Galaxy, has been seeking an investor for months. A deal with PCCW would make a formidable pay TV combination. But the way it’s acting right now, PCCW doesn’t look as if it has the energy to help make Galaxy a player.

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