Slow ad growth keeps budget down

Territory report: Hong Kong

HONG KONG — Ad revenue is likely to stay stagnant this year for both terrestrial broadcasters, Television Broadcasts (TVB) and Asia Television (ATV), according to Zenith Media.

TVB and ATV produce plenty of local fare but also acquire product from China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. Both snap up plenty of American fare, too, to fill up their mandatory English-language channels, as does New Corp.’s satellite channel Star World.

TVB boasts American hits such as “24,” “Alias” and “Friends,” with a focus also on acquiring movies. It also boasts a spending budget that, despite the outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome, remains steady thanks to advance bookings.

ATV will soon introduce “Boomtown” and carries popular American titles “CSI” and “CSI: Miami.” Its focus includes dramas, docs and lifestyle shows.

Both broadcasters say they won’t spend much more on foreign product than in years past.

The same goes for one of the satellite channels.

“Star World has a similar budget to the previous year, which is appropriate for the market conditions,” says Steve Askew, exec VP of programming for the Star Group. “There is always a wide amount of choice and if a show was overpriced, I would select an alternative.”

The pay TV market has slowly been welcoming new players. Four feevees have joined dominant provider cable TV over the past two years but most pay TV services offer a sliver of the content cable offers.

The exception is Galaxy, the pay TV arm of resource-rich TVB, which is expected to offer a handful of self-produced channels when it launches in November.

Terrestrial broadcasters aren’t worried about overlapping programs.

“We select programs; they’re selecting channels,” says Hung Shuen-shuen, controller of ATV’s English-lingo World Channel. “We get firstrun so we have an edge as a terrestrial channel.”

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