'In-Laws' keeps TVB Jade on top in 2007


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HONG KONG -- 2008 started with plenty of hype about the launch of digital terrestrial television, which began broadcasting on Dec. 31, 2007, to 50% of the local population. The two terrestrial broadcasters -- Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) and Asia Television (ATV) -- are expected to cover 75% of Hong Kong before the Beijing Olympic Games in August. TVB and ATV have unveiled two and four standard-definition channels, respectively, in addition to the four original terrestrial channel simulcasts and a 24-hour high-definition channel for industry leader TVB Jade. HD broadcast of ATV, which experienced another ownership change last year, comes in selected time slots.

The hype seems to have worked: In a Nielsen Co. survey conducted in late 2007 and early 2008, 80% of the respondents said they intend to buy an HDTV. But the truth remains to be seen in the months leading up to the Olympics.

Indeed, all eyes are on the games. Although TV advertising spending only experienced a slight 1% increase in 2007, broadcasters are anticipating a revenue surge during the games. The total TV ad revenue last year was HK$20.4 billion ($2.6 billion), with HK$15.8 billion ($2 billion) on terrestrial TV, while pay TV ad revenue dropped 3%, tallying HK$4.5 billion ($579 million), according to the Nielsen Co.

Apart from the two terrestrial stations, i-Cable is the official new-media broadcaster of the games, with at least four online channels distributing the event.

Olympics aside, TVB Jade is holding on to its title as king of the local TV industry, as it broadcast the top-rated shows in 2007 ("Heart of Greed") and 2008 ("Wars of In-Laws II"), according to CSM Media Research. The latter dramedy was the first-ever HDTV series in Hong Kong.

For the rest of the market, viewer numbers for IPTV is on a steady rise, the PCCW-owned Now TV recorded 882,000 subscribers at the end of 2007, representing a 7% increase in six months.