Television

HK?s NOW snares HBO, Star in exclusive deal

 NEW DELHI: Hong Kong-based PCCW's IPTV platform NOW Broadband TV (NOW) has secured exclusive long term agreements with HBO and Star Group, comprising 14 channels that includes five movie channels.

The agreement with HBO expires in 2014 and includes HBO, HBO Signature and Cinemax, while the agreement with Star expires in 2011 and comprises 11 channels (including Star Chinese Movies, Star Movies, Star World, Fox News and Hindi-language Star News and Star Plus), according to Hong Kong-based media analyst firm Media Partners Asia (MPA).

In addition, to ESPN-Star Sports, which NOW secured exclusive access to last year, NOW also reported an exclusive distribution agreement with Mei Ah TV (Chinese-language movies) and distribution agreements with Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting (CNN Headline News and Boomerang); Eastern Broadcasting in Taiwan (ETTV news and entertainment channels) EuroNews and the Asian Food Channel.

The news further reinforces NOW's position as the platform of choice for major international channels and foreign residents in Hong Kong.

The agreement with HBO expires in 2014 and includes HBO, HBO Signature and Cinemax, while the agreement with Star expires in 2011 and comprises 11 channels (including Star Chinese Movies, Star Movies, Star World, Fox News and Hindi-language Star News and Star Plus), according to Hong Kong-based media analyst firm Media Partners Asia (MPA).

In addition, to ESPN-Star Sports, which NOW secured exclusive access to last year, NOW also reported an exclusive distribution agreement with Mei Ah TV (Chinese-language movies) and distribution agreements with Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting (CNN Headline News and Boomerang); Eastern Broadcasting in Taiwan (ETTV news and entertainment channels) EuroNews and the Asian Food Channel.

The news further reinforces NOW's position as the platform of choice for major international channels and foreign residents in Hong Kong.

Prior to July, HBO's one-year carriage on NOW had produced far higher take-up when compared with its premium distribution on the i-CABLE platform, where its numbers have stagnated for the past five years, MPA said.

Both HBO and STAR have also been drawn to attractive minimum-guarantee agreements with NOW and its significant marketing capabilities.

NOW's distribution of HBO and Star movie channels and Galaxy's (SuperSun)continued carriage of Celestial Movies will also exert greater pressure on i-CABLE in Hong Kong to programme a successful movie channel of its own.

Management at i-CABLE indicate that the company will remain focused on the local demographic by investing further in its news and entertainment channels (and, in the future, movies) and maintaining its sports franchise (EPL Soccer, World Cup soccer and more).

However, PCCW is also gradually building up its own localized franchise (ATV news channel already on board; local financial news channel to be next) and is likely to bid against i-CABLE (along with ESPN-Star Sports) when EPL Soccer comes up for renewal in 2006.

Along with i-CABLE, Galaxy will also lose the distribution of HBO channels, another impediment to the long term growth of its fledgling service.

As of year ended December 2004, NOW had signed up 416,000 homes with an installed STB base of 361,000. About 53 per cent of the installed base or 192,000 customers subscribed to NOW's a-la-carte pay channels and/or mini packs with monthly average return per user (ARPU)at HK$105 or US$13, MPA stated.

Going forward, MPA quoted PCCW as saying that it plans to drive STB installs to approximately 500,000 and, at the same time, increase its pay TV conversion rate from Y/E December 2004 levels of 53 per cent.

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