A new regional channel programmed with movie and entertainment content from Hong Kong, cHK, is a key part of Celestial Tiger Entertainment’s strategy to gain shelf space in the fast-growing but under-penetrated pay-TV market for Asian-made shows.
The new channel launched on SingTel’s 415,000-subscriber platform, Mio TV, in October. Negotiations are taking place for further distribution, especially in Southeast Asia, over the coming months.
It’s a critical opportunity as the current phase of pay-TV growth becomes anchored to vernacular tastes in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, or where local and Asian channels drive volume and value in saturated markets such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.
“There is no shortage of western content in Asia,” says Celestial Tiger Entertainment (CTE) CEO, Todd Miller, speaking in an interview with Media Business Asia.
“There are far fewer regional channels specializing in Asian content, and that is the opportunity for us.”
cHK aims to capitalize on the popularity of Hong Kong content in the region, where viewing options are currently scarce.
While declining to offer specific figures, Miller describes the new channel as an “expensive,” but worthwhile investment, especially as the offering scales long-term.
CTE has output deals with five Hong Kong studios, covering its existing channels as well as cHK, signing Universe Entertainment and Mega-Vision Pictures this year.
“Both have ambitious plans for growth and are producing the kind of movies that not only play well in Hong Kong, but also travel well,” Miller says.
Ramping up output deals underscores a bigger investment in content and channels, designed to give CTE an edge in an emerging marketplace for Asian entertainment.
“There are many sources of competitive advantage but having secure, long-term content supply deals is an important part of that,” Miller explains.
For its Chinese channels, CTE has long-term output deals with a number of studios in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, while cHK aggregates content from the likes of i-Cable, RTHK and ATV in Hong Kong.
Miller has witnessed multiple cultural waves in Asia, first from Japan and more recently, Korea.
The trend continues, Miller suggests, singling out China as the next cultural phenomenon.
“The Chinese box office is booming and so are their exports because the products themselves are better,” he observes. “This is only going to accelerate.”
Miller remains cautious however, as the conditions for a content bubble may be forming.
The Chinese media industry must “ensure quality and standards are not eroded when the economics are so encouraging,” he says.
At the pinnacle of the Korean wave, Miller recounts, a producer could pre-sell the Japanese rights to a Korean film for more than its production budget.
Movies will continue to travel well, Miller predicts, noting that Hong Kong movies and stars are the best performing in the region.
While CTE's popular Celestial Movies channel also features films from Japan and Korea, Hong Kong movies are the ratings winners, he points out.
“The movies are story-driven and have Hong Kong star power,” he says.
“The quality of filmmaking here can be world-class. Just based on recent productions that have come through Hong Kong, I have never been more optimistic about the role of Hong Kong as a center for Asian entertainment than I am now.”