Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV) has decided it will no longer pursue its application for a domestic free-to-air television programme service licence. It will withdraw the application it submitted to the Communications Authority in April 2014.
The company, owned by telecom mogul Ricky Wong, first applied for a licence at the end of 2009. In October 2013, the government rejected the application owing to “a basket of factors,” whilst granting licenses to two other applicants. Critics said the decision was made solely by then-chief executive Leung Chun-ying, sparking mass protests.
Gregory So, the commerce secretary handling the matter at the time, said last year that he personally supported approving all three licences, but he had to defend the government’s decision.
The company switched pursue an online shopping business in December 2014, after sharing several television drama series online for free.
The company said it will also surrender its mobile television licence to the Communication Authority and axe the service on March 31, or on a date the Authority may reasonably suggest. The Authority has been informed of the decisions.
Asked why did he is to give up the television business, Wong said: “The answer is simple – we have been waiting for eight years.”
“As a business, we have to care about the feelings of the public, and also of the shareholders.”
Wong said he had no regrets, and their efforts in the television business helped the online shopping business.
He said one of the principles of his company was to provide businesses that society needed – from his first major success with international direct dialling and broadband, to television and then e-commerce.
“There are enough new television stations in Hong Kong now… Even ATV has been revived,” he said. “There is no need for us to join.”
Fantastic TV, a free-to-air channel from Cable TV, recently purchased the rights to broadcast some of HKTV’s shows.
Wong said the company will not sell its television equipment, and will instead open up its studio in Tseung Kwan O to young people. Those with at least 20,000 followers on social media will be able to produce their own content.
Wong ran for a Legislative Council seat in 2016 in an effort to form a faction to secure half of the seats and oust Leung as leader of Hong Kong.
He failed to win a seat by a small margin – finishing around 2,100 votes short. But, just months later, Leung decided not to run for a re-election, citing family reasons.
Wong said he would not run again.
In its annual results announced on Tuesday, Wong said its online supermarket service HKTVmall has yet to achieve break even on each individual order.
The company reported a net loss of HK$204.9 million for 2017 – an improvement on the net loss of HK$257.1 million in 2016.
But Wong said it has figured out how to increase gross profit margins by adopting of automated and robotic warehouse systems, and lowering delivery costs through the promotion of customer pickup and better use of delivery trucks.
“We are confident about the future of online shopping business in Hong Kong. We are not worried about any lack of demand,” Wong said in the results. “The challenge is to build a loyal team with digital DNA.”
“In a few years’ time, when other large retailers realise the demand potential for online shopping, they will headhunt our talents who are experienced in digital promotion and online shopping operations.”