There's a splendid letter in today's SCMP Technology section from someone called Jay Bhatt.
I read your article "Desperate wait as industry fumbles with TV distribution" (October 25) on the entertainment industry's problems with television distribution in Hong Kong.
One solution would be to get Now Broadband to cut a deal with the Big Four broadcasters in the United States - ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox - to distribute their channels, preferably in high definition, on NOW's platform. I am sure Hong Kong subscribers would not mind paying, say, $20 to $30 a channel or $100 a package a month to get quality US programming in high definition with Dolby Digital surround sound and the works.
PCCW has said it will start high-definition feeds in December. If it got the Big Four on board too, it would not even have to reformat (pan and scan) the shows for Hong Kong television. The broadcasters could just pass the whole channel through directly.
Star World is a good case in point. It feeds through much of Fox's programming (both Star and Fox are owned by Rupert Murdoch), including American Idol, Malcolm in the Middle and The Simpsons. Star will further monetise this content by showing it on NOW Broadband, starting in January, for a monthly fee.
The reason I feel people download their TV here is that:
1) the shows broadcast here on terrestrial and even satellite TV are rubbish; and 2) the good US shows broadcast here are years behind what is available in the US. TVB, I believe, recently started season two of The OC while the US is well into season three - and this is just one example.
Perhaps the Broadcasting Authority and Hong Kong broadcasters should contact their US-based counterparts and try a new approach that would provide quality programming to viewers while giving money back to the stations, which in turn could support the development of new shows.
It may also help reduce, although not necessarily eliminate, illegal downloads of TV shows.
You gotta love the fact that someone who is apparently familiar with the jargon ("monetise this content" indeed) knows so little about the broadcasting industry.
There may possibly be a few tiny obstacles to be overcome before this can happen - for example, there's the small matter of the legal rights to all these shows. Would TVB and ATV pay for the Hong Kong rights to shows that had already aired on another channel months earlier? Possibly not. Do ABC, NBC and CBS even own the international rights to all the shows they broadcast? Er, no.
This, of course, explains why BBC Prime is rubbish - they don't show anything that the BBC can sell to other broadcasters or on DVD. They don't show programmes that belong to other organizations. Old editions of Top Gear? No problem. Swiss Toni? Certainly, sir. The Office? Extras? Spooks? Rome? Possibly not.
But, hey, if someone would offer me BBC1, BBC2 and Channel 4 for HK$100 a month, I think I could be persuaded to sign-up. Somehow, I don't think it's going to happen, though.