Dr Foster on BBC First

Having been rather unkind about BBC First I feel I must record that they are showing the wonderfully bonkers drama Dr Foster only a few days after it was on BBC1 in the UK.

Some great performances from Suranne Jones, Bertie Carvel and Jodie Comer (amongst others), but you need to suspend disbelief at many of the twists and turns (and plenty of people hated it).  

Still no sign of BBC Player in Hong Kong, though.


BBC First sometimes

BBC First (on Now TV in Hong Kong) claims to be “the home of premium drama from the BBC. Enjoy all new shows brought to you first and on demand”.

So - Sherlock season 4, that would be on BBC First?  Well, yes it is in other parts of Asia, but in Hong Kong you need to pay an extra $70 to watch the three episodes on another Now TV service!

BBC First does have season 3 of Sherlock (from three years ago), and they have recently added the special episode “The Abominable Bride” (January 2016), so maybe we can look forward to season 4 a year from now.

To be fair, they are showing the new season of Doctor Who, as well as a few current BBC prime time dramas (Silent Witness, SS-GB, Call the Midwife, and Death in Paradise), a couple of ITV dramas (In Plain Sight and Unforgotten) plus daytime BBC’s Father Brown.

Singapore and Malaysia now have BBC Player, a streaming service similar to iPlayer, and this has a wider range of programming (though only a small fraction of what is on iPlayer in the UK).  No idea whether this eventually come to Hong Kong or even what shows will be available, and maybe they will still try to sell the top shows separately!

Netflix arrives in Hong Kong, followed by House of Cards

Netflix has indeed launched in Hong Kong – and most of the rest of the world (apart from China).

Initially, House of Cards wasn’t available.  Yes, that’s right – the series for which Netflix is best known wasn’t available on Netflix.  Along with a lot of other shows.

The good news is that Netflix Hong Kong does now have the Netflix series House of Cards1.  Good work, Netflix people.

As pointed out below, they currently only have the first 3 series, which in no way diminishes the achievement by Netflix Hong Kong in securing the rights to a Netflix owned drama series.

Now it’s LeTV

Well, I wasn't expecting that.  LeTV out-bid Cable TV and PCCW's Now TV for English Premier League (EPL) TV rights in Hong Kong, paying US$400 million (double the value of Now TV's current agreement).  They had a big launch event this week - and then promptly sold the broadcast TV rights on to Now TV.

Which presumably leaves LeTV with the streaming rights, with speculation that they might offer individual games or a "season pass" (for all of one team’s matches), but nothing has been confirmed.

It should at least be better than the hopeless "Now Player" (I gave up on that after losing the connection three times in the first few minutes of the only EPL game I tried to watch).  

LeTV's streaming service only recently launched in Hong Kong, so it makes some sort of sense for them.  Well, possibly - in the UK it worked for Sky, but not for ITV Digital or Setanta Sports UK (both closed down after over paying for rights), and I suppose it has helped Now TV in Hong Kong (who first acquired the rights in 2007, only to lose them to Cable TV three years later).

Apparently some of the games will be available in 4K.  That's no use to me - my TV only supports 720p (what they used to call "HD ready") and I already have Now TV's so-called "Super HD" service (which I believe is 576p).  

Meanwhile, in other streaming news, Netflix have announced that they will launch in Hong Kong early next year.

All true, obviously

Over the New Year holiday, CCTV-4 has been showing the full 48 hours of Deng Xiaoping at History's Crossroads.  My favourite bits (i.e. the only stuff I can understand) are the cameo appearances by Robert Maxwell, Ted Heath, Margaret Thatcher and a Governor or two.  And only one of them looked anything like the real person. 

The there’s the stilted dialogue…and some of the scenes were totally fictitious.  We see Thatcher having a cordial meeting with Ted Heath (in 1982?), where she asks him “as her old friend”  to talk to Deng about Hong Kong. 

Rather unlikely, given that they barely spoke after 1976 (she defeated him in the leadership election in 1975).  Yes, Heath went to China and would have talked to Deng about Hong Kong, but the meeting with Thatcher never happened.

But I expect everything else is totally true. 

BBC Knowledge HD

Finally, finally, the BBC is offering an HD channel in Asia.  Rather than a BBC HD channel, they have converted BBC Knowledge to HD (at least on PCCW’s Now TV).  Watching something like Africa in HD is a totally different experience to the rather poor quality murkyvision we have had to suffer up until now (though, yes, it has been shown on HD by TVB).    

EPL back on Now TV

So the English Premier League is back on Now TV.  It seems to be the pattern now for it to alternate between PCCW’s Now TV and Wharf Group’s Cable TV every three years.

Of course they charge you extra for the EPL.  You might think that a Now Sports Megapack would cover everything, but rather than using the old channel numbers they have created new numbers (from 621 upwards) that are only available in the Super Sports Pack.  And, yes, you need to subscribe for two years.

They also charge extra for Premier League TV, which is a 24 hour channel in English that is originated from the UK and available worldwide to all broadcasters who have EPL rights.  One of the presenters is John Dykes, once of ESPN Star Sports.  I have so far refused to pay for this because I objected to them quoting me a price for EPL coverage and then calling me a few days to ask for more money for one of the channels.  

Good thing about Now TV?  The video on demand service (which cable TV don’t have).  They also claim to have “Super HD” but it seems that my existing decoder doesn’t support it - so again I would have to pay extra for that.

In other Now TV news,  Eurosport is now available in HD, and they showed the recent US Open tennis.  They also have English rugby league and French rugby union, cycling, and some odd bits of football.

Meanwhile, Goal TV has closed down.  They stopped providing coverage of the Championship last season, but still had programmes from several club TV channels  (Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Barcelona).

There was a letter in the SCMP from someone complaining that ITV Choice is no longer on Now TV.  The only time I ever watched it was once when I was surprised to discover that it was available in a hotel in Bangkok, but the programmes were old and very second-rate.  So, no big surprise that PCCW chose not to continue offering the channel. 

TVB Pearl HD

Shows how much I watch TV…

Apparently TVB Pearl switched to High Definition back in November.  I only noticed last week when watching a Jamie Oliver programme.  It seemed very clear, but I assumed that was just because it was digital TV.  Then I saw the "TVB Pearl HD" logo. 

Here’s what they did:

Revision of the Generic Code of Practice on Television Technical Standards

In response to a joint application of Asia Television Limited ("ATV") and Television Broadcasts Limited ("TVB"), the CA approved revision of the Generic Code of Practice on Television Technical Standards which will take effect in October 2012 upon gazettal.  The revision allows the two Digital Terrestrial Television ("DTT") broadcasters to switch from MPEG-2 to H.264 as the video coding for four simulcast television programme channels around end October.  The use of H.264 coding will enhance the picture quality of the four simulcast channels and open up the possibility of providing more programme channels, introducing high definition television ("HDTV") or three-dimensional television services.  The CA also noted that TVB would upgrade the Pearl Channel from standard definition television to HDTV upon the change of the video coding.

The change of video coding from MPEG-2 to H.264 will be seamless to most viewers.  Only a small portion of DTT receivers may require minor user intervention, such as re-scanning DTT channels on the receiver, for resuming normal reception after the change.  The two broadcasters will make public announcement before effecting the change and maintain service hotlines to respond to public enquiry during the changeover period.