ATV closure spells trouble for advertisers and agencies

ATV’s fate is sealed. The oldest Hong Kong television broadcaster will go dark on 1 April next year. And no, it’s not an April Fool’s Day prank.

A day after ATV’s misleading report about HKTV’s possible acquisition, the Chief Executive’s Executive Council has decided to end the its woes for good – refusing to renew the broadcaster’s free-to-air license.

While the decision has received considerable praise, some problems remain. While advertisers will not be hugely impacted, PHD CEO Ray Wong, said the messy saga may impact media agencies.

“I support the decision not to renew ATV’s free-to-air license, but the whole process has been mishandled by the Hong Kong government in terms of decision-making, speed and transparency,” Wong said.

The question now, he says, is which station should be given the free-to-air TV frequency.

The Executive Council announced yesterday it will grant PCCW’s HKTVE a free TV license, but HKTVE’s service will be delivered via fixed networks, which have coverage of around 65%. Now TV filed for TV frequencies for free-to-air capability after yesterday’s announcement.

Wong said advertising on ATV has been shrinking, alongside a ratings demise, and advertisers would not be left out in the cold. In his view, the next free-to-air license should have been given to now TV or Cable TV, if only to create more diversity in the TV market, something he said could spark a revival of quality content and advertising.

“The TV ad market is on shaky grounds. Big spenders like the property, banking and telecom sectors have shrunk their media budgets because of intensifying economic and political situations in Hong Kong. As a result, they buy less media.”

Wong argued that consumers’ shift to mobile and tablets did not spell the end of TV viewing.

” I don’t think people are shifting away from TV to tablets,” he added. “In the age of multi-screen, people have just been given more choices about how they watch.”

To that, Wong suggested that TVB outsources its content to the troubled ATV.

“ATV is no longer a threat. If both TVB and ATV can reach a consensus on this, it can be a way to attract eyeballs back to television and reach a win-win situation,” he added.

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