ATV Files for Bankruptcy Due to Repeated Financial Difficulties

In recent years, ATV has often been faced with precarious financial situations. In August 2011, ATV announced a series of big moves through the release of several programs which were produced in-house. Now, a new turbulence erupted, as ATV filed for bankruptcy yesterday afternoon. ATV’s majority shareholder, Tsai Eng Ming’s subsidiary, Norwares Overseas Inc. applied for ATV’s bankruptcy at the Hong Kong High Court.

In 2008, Taiwanese billionaire, Tsai Eng Ming, Chairman of Want Want Group, injected cash assistance into ATV to become its majority shareholder. Despite this, ATV was rumored to be on the brink of bankruptcy once again in 2010. ATV’s two majority shareholders, Tsai Eng Ming and Payson Cha, had an open war of words last year over the company’s equity issues.

How will the filing of bankruptcy impact ATV? A representative from ATV responded, “Mr. Tsai’s company’s $150 million HKD in convertible bonds and interest were returned last year, while Mr. Tsai applied for a court injunction prohibiting the release of $23 million in convertible bonds of the company. Now, Mr. Tsai used these grounds to withdraw his stake from ATV.  For the sake of the overall situation, ATV agreed to let Mr. Tsai redeem this portion of the funds.” According to the interpretation of a legal professional over the matter, under Hong Kong law, shareholders can apply for bankruptcy on the grounds of insolvent funds, regardless of how many shares were held.

Repeated Financial Difficulties

A reader revealed that ATV did not pay outstanding lease amounts on the automobiles used by the ATV news department. If ATV did not pay the vehicle lease amounts by the deadline this weekend, the automobiles will be towed away.  ATV’s Public Relations department did not respond on the matter. 

On September 29th, ATV released an internal circular which stated that due to the local typhoon, the issuance of employees’ monthly paychecks will be postponed from September 30th to October 3rd. An ATV Public Relations spokesman explained that the remittance came from the mainland, thus the issuance of employee paychecks were delayed due to the typhoon occurrence.

In addition, there were rumors that more than a dozen ATV production staff were poached [by another television station].  Yip Ka Boa stated, “In the past, there were also employee departures, however, no one paid attention to the matter. ATV will not take the situation lightly, but will instead strengthen talents in the scriptwriting department. As to whether salaries will be increased in order to retain employees, this will be dependent upon the circumstances.  We do not wish to increase salaries simply due to the departure of staff. The company already made annual pay adjustments in the middle of the year.” Asked whether ATV will follow TVB’s issuance of letters to employees warning of the poaching crisis, Yip Ka Bao noted that each company had its own practices. Since the licenses for the three free television broadcasting stations have not been issued yet, ATV will not heed other television stations’ practices.

Amidst Increased Competition, A Bleak Future Ahead for ATV

In the past decade, equity disputes at ATV persisted and coupled with frequent high-level management changes, ATV was at a disadvantage in competing with rival, TVB. ATV now faced another heavy crisis ahead. Due to the Hong Kong government’s intention to expand free public television, urban telecommunications, as well as cable broadband, the availability of free television licenses were announced in December 2009.

Currently, Hong Kong had two free television stations, ATV and TVB, along with four fee-based stations.  Three new free television broadcasting stations are expected to enter the market in 2012, including Ricky Wong’s City Telecom, Richard Li’s PCCW, as well as I-Cable TV.

The increase in competition in the free television broadcasting market may pose additional financial difficulties for ATV. Associate Professor, Feng Ying Qian at the City University of Hong Kong School of Journalism and Communication, noted, “ATV is different from TVB and Shaw Brothers in the aspect that ATV does not have real estate and other fixed assets.”

ATV shareholder, Payson Cha, openly stated that free competition in the television broadcasting industry was a negative development for ATV. Mr. Cha stated, “For the audience, more competition and more choices are good things. However, for ATV, this is a very bad development.”

Excerpt from

Jayne: This may indeed be the end for ATV, who has lacked in-house quality programming for the last two members. The in-fighting among majority shareholders, Tsai Eng Ming and Payson Cha did not help ATV achieve a forward-thinking plan either.

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  1. seriously haven’t ATV filed for bankruptcy many times before.

    well i guess the other tv channels can buy parts of what is worth something.

    1. Exoidus,
      ATV has a long history of depressed finances, thus it may have given you the impression that it had filed for bankruptcy before. In the past, ATV was always financially rescued with wealthy shareholders purchased shares in the company. Tsai Eng Ming injected $1 billion HKD in convertible bonds in ATV in 2008.

      With the increased competition in the soon-to-be free television market and ATV’s lack of Hong Kong viewership, lack of management direction, lack of fixed assets, apparently no wealthy buyers surfaced this time to rescue ATV with much needed cash. This finally pushed ATV to file for bankruptcy.

      1. I had a feeling that this was going to happen sooner or later. I feel bad for ATV since it is not a bad company. I actually think that it is has some plus points compared to TVB in some aspects. I hope that ATV does not shut down completely because they used to and I think still have the potential to make some really good series and shows. What a big shame if they can’t recover…

  2. Files for Bankruptcy and Bankruptcy is different. Still have chance for ATV’s revolution. Maybe after the time of restructure, ATV will come back?

    1. Fox,
      Unless wealthy buyer comes in to purchase ATV, what do you think the filing of bankruptcy will lead to? In its current depressed state, depressed reputation among viewers, fighting between Tsai Eng Ming and Payson Cha over ownership of the station, which buyer will be interested in purchasing ATV? Perhaps in the past, a buyer would have emerged, since only ATV and TVB had the licenses to operate in the free TV broadcasting industry.

      ATV sounds like a cash drain operation. Over the past two decades, it has lost money. Even if a wealthy investor or company were interested in the broadcasting industry, they might be better off applying for their own license to operate, which is what Richard Li and Ricky Wong are doing.

      In addition, with the mainland market still the big carrot, an investor with heavy pockets might want to start a production company instead, which may be lower risk than trying to salvage the financially ruined ATV.

      1. Technically I think an Administrator or Liquidator can still come in and take over from the CEO or whoever is head of operations to turn a failing business around by making structural changes and the like. But somehow I don’t see this possible with ATV. Just liquidate ATV, I’ve had enough of seeing their depressing channel logo intros since I was young. Its way past its bed time anyway. The only thing I liked about ATV post-2000 was that they often dubbed the mainland wuxia series and show them at night. That aside I can only think a handful of series they produced I found to be good.

      2. Yeah, at this point I don’t know if ATV can still opt for administration(who will be the administrator?). It’s sad if ATV ends up liquidated, but nothing lasts forever and perhaps it might stop ATV from “suffering” 😛

        What I might feel sorry for are the remaining employees of ATV. I don’t know about HK’s laws for employee rights. Perhaps they can move out into Ricky Wong’s campsite.

      3. Technically, the owners will need to surpass the owners meeting before going to the decision of bankruptcy or rearrangement. So have to wait for more.

  3. They might have chances before bankcrupty takes place – financed, bought out…

    ATV did have good series… very long time ago. It might be a good time to get bankcruptcy so employees can work for other upraising stations. Anyway, corperation bankcruptcy is not too bad foe its owner because they can only lose what they have invested (at max), most stockholders are still rich after the backcryptcy. Only employees are truly affected.

  4. I agree with He Tie Shou that ATV has its own merit and at times have produced better quality tv series compared to TVB but the ‘look’ of their series is not ‘slick’ and ‘bright’ enough due to limited budget and the ‘standard’ of how HK TV shows should look set by TVB in their spoiling of the viewers. Everyone was saying how the inclusion of three new TV stations next year will be the end of TVB’s monopoly on the HK tv market but I think the real loser here is ATV. With these three new stations, TVB will certainly still survive but ATV will be completely wiped off the map.

    1. Thanks for the info Dai Si Jie. Is Hk really going to have 3 more new TV stations next year?? If so, I still think TVB will survive since they have been around for a long time and are still very popular with the audience(of course not as much as before but still going strong). However, I also question if ATV will survive or not… It would be so sad if ATV disappears forever. I still lament the old days when ATV as well as TVB made really good series and shows… Don’t tell me that it is all only the glory days of the past… I really miss the good old days…

    2. Though I’m not sure when the 3 new stations will start churning out their own line of series. I-Cable for one, buys and dubs most of its shows from mainland. Technically if you lived in private estate in HK, you can receive a whole number of free channels, especially if you got HD-TV. Anyway, if this will make the stations treat scriptwriters with more respect, then I’m for it. Not if its just gonna end up in a actor hoarding war.

    3. Dai Si Jie,
      “I agree with He Tie Shou that ATV has its own merit and at times have produced better quality tv series compared to TVB but the ‘look’ of their series is not ‘slick’ and ‘bright’ enough due to limited budget and the ‘standard’ of how HK TV shows should look set by TVB in their spoiling of the viewers.”

      From a packing point of view, ATV did not “modernize” their series enough. The set designs and lighting are just two examples. Perhaps that’s why ATV had better reception with pre-modern dramas such as “The Good Old Days” and “Love in a Miracle.”

      “Everyone was saying how the inclusion of three new TV stations next year will be the end of TVB’s monopoly on the HK tv market but I think the real loser here is ATV.”

      Even before the opening of the HK television broadcasting industry to allow free competition, ATV has been faced with financial management issues. Abrupt changes in ownership over the past two decades did not help either, as there was no long-term plan to make ATV a stronger station and fix its financial and cash issues. It really was a matter of time ATV would not survive….

      With ATV’s viewership ratings of only 4% (240,000 viewers) or so for its prime-time slots, compared to TVB’s 35% in ratings (2.1 million viewers), will any investors be interested in injecting additional capital into ATV? HK’s paid channels might even have higher audience numbers than 4%.

  5. I feel very sad for ATV. I grow up watching ATV series. So, I have feelings for ATV. I just bought some old ATV series to watch.

    My view of ATV changes through out the years. At the start, I feel bad ATV for losing the ratings war to habit viewing (viewers automatically tune to TVB) despite producing high quality series. Not only that. Every time ATV have a good idea that works, TVB steal it and make their own version with a little modification and snatch back the ratings. I feel that ATV was fighting not on equal ground and ATV has a lot of unfair advantage.

    But, after year 2000 and ATV changed boss, it started going downhill and I feel bad for it for another reason i.e. bad management killing the station. ATV change bosses so many times after that and i see it dig its grave deeper and deeper. ATV produced less and less series and instead buy series from outside. Their own stable of actors relegated to supporting and minor roles while they employed movie actors and mainland actors to film their series (which cause their series to be full of bad dubbing). I now still check out ATV website to see what new series it has. But, honestly, I’ve lost interest some what, because the familiar faces are mostly gone while the subject matter is not very interesting.

    Kenneth Chan has highlighted the problem with ATV. He said ATV cannot hold out long enough to see improvement. Every time it look like there a glimmer of hope and the management plan started working, the station changed boss and new management was implemented and started all over again.

    Is there still hope for ATV?

    1. I nearly thought you said “I just bought some old ATV [SHARES]” and I was grasping my seat. There there *pat *pat

      As the conversation about karma had long long ago on Jaynestars, if ones goes, one should come back. So if ATV goes, something should come back. Hopefully not of the same substance though.

      I still think ATV’s Flaming Brothers is unforgetable for me.

      1. Is “The Good Old Days” ATV’s? I grew up watching the installments 😀

      2. Yes, ‘The Good Old Days’ is an ATV series.

        Other ATV I like

        – Silver Tycoon
        – My Date With A Vampire trilogy
        – Mythical Crane Magic Needle
        – A Lawyer Can Be Good
        – Who Is The Winner
        – The Harvest Moon
        – The Blood Sword
        – Venture Against Time

        I’m currently looking for Mythical Crane for keep. Still looking for ‘Stupid Kid’ and ‘Heaven’s Retribution’.

      3. Kidd,
        Hehe my fondest memories are of 80s RTV shows, before it became ATV. In the 90s, the video rental market of HK titles in New York area were split by stores that either carried TVB or ATV only. So we had to choose between the two and watched TVB exclusively for many years. I think I missed out on ATV productions in the 90s altogether.

        It wasn’t until in the late 90s where more video stores broke through the exclusivity in distribution rights, where a store would offer both TVB and ATV titles once again.

      4. @ Jayne

        Malaysia is the same. Rental stores here also exclusive carry either TVB or ATV series only. My uncle’s rental store was one of the shops that carry ATV series. But, since the 2000, ATV shops became fewer and fewer. I’ve not seen a ATV shop for a long time already. I’ve only foune one shop that carried both and this shop has also closed down. TVB shops have also closed down a lot. Cable TV and piracy forced these shops out of business.

      5. Kidd,
        I heard TVB demanded very high distribution fees for overseas video stores that wanted exclusive distribution rights to their titles. To the extent that our frequented video store switched from TVB to ATV & mainland series at one point because it was not profitable for them to pay the high fee demanded by TVB. However, due to overseas loyalty in watching their programs, TVB was able to demand such exclusivity for many years in our local market.

        Now, TVB seems to have focused their overseas distrubtion strategy by partnering with overseas Chinese cable companies to legally distribute their dramas and perhaps get a lucrative distribution fee, rather than deal with the local video stores, which are disappearing fast.

        However, the advent of VCDs and online viewing mechanisms have resulted in easier access for overseas audiences to see dramas from all Asian regions and not be as exclusive to TVB only.

      6. Rental stores for TVB series in Malaysia is decreasing due to in large part ASTRO, which shows latest series.

      7. In the US, video renting places have become even fewer and fewer due to cable TV, the selling of DVD,etc…Many DVD sets are now only for sale and not for rental like the VHS tapes in the past. IN the past, I still remember that it costs up to $3 US dollars per tape just to rent it. But now people can just buy the entire DVD sets for a decent price so why rent??

      8. buy ATV shares and maybe it survive 🙂 buy them cheap and maybe theres some wealthy tycoon who would turn it around?

  6. ATV also has unconscientiousness boss now. Remember the false reporting of the death of a Mainland government executive?

    ATV news department head cannot stop this news from being broadcast. He resigned because of this case. The integrity of it’s news department is gone. See how corrupt the management of ATV is?

  7. Never was a fan of ATV, when I was old enough to watch TV, they were already rolling down the slippery slope. Regardless of what state ATV used to be, or is currently in right now. I still maintain that their actors and actresses that used to be with them, and then left, are some of the best around. A good majority of them are so talented! I wonder why ATV let such talent go…

  8. I also growth up watching ATV,the last drama I watch is Who the Hero,even hire Julian Cheung cannot save Tvb,Tvb serial could be more worse since no one give them competition ,I wonder will Eric wan will move to Tvb,anyways do Kenneth Chan still acting in Atv?

    1. Kenneth Chan is with I-Cable now because ATV didn’t seem keen to renew his contract. He said near the end of his contract, HR still dis approach him to discuss contract. So, he was a bit dishearten and he also need to think of his future. So, he moved to I-Cable. But, he still act for ATV’s ‘Men of Justice’.

      I don’t know where Eric Wan has gone. But, I know he left ATV already.

  9. My reaction, bahahahahahahahahahaha.

    ATV management for the past 10 years + is just effing up the company whole….

    I felt so sorry for those ex-TVB artist who jump to ATV sink hole.

    1. Larry,
      “I felt so sorry for those ex-TVB artist who jump to ATV sink hole.”

      Fortunately, there will be City Telecom and Now TV to offer a new home to any ATV artists who may be impacted by ATV’s depressed financial situation.

      1. Screw City Telecom, luring artist in an unethical way.

        I see NowTV is a true player to go defeat TVB, but they are somewhat a “long distance cousin” which they have ex-TVB artist and personal. PCCW still has connection with TVB somewhat.

  10. RTHK news: “Creditor seeks liquidation of ATV”

    A company controlled by Taiwan billionaire Tsai Eng-meng has applied to a Hong Kong court seeking liquidation of Asia Television.

    Mr Tsai invested in the station last year, but the deal led to a drawn out legal dispute with the station’s former majority shareholder Payson Cha over the control of the station.

    ATV said in a statement it regretted the latest move taken by Mr Tsai. It said Mr Tsai was seeking to recover his investment worth 23 million dollars. ATV said it had agreed to return the money to Mr Tsai. It also said it had already returned 150 million dollars worth of Mr Tsai’s initial investment plus interest.

    1. I think ATV purposely let the 40 year old compete to make news headlines

      1. ATV has been making news, to cover up the false report of former Chinese president’s death.

    2. I wonder why the 40yr old lady wants to compete. She must have other reasons than the crown cause she won’t get it no matter how mismanaged atv is. Maybe she wants to prove something to a cheating husband…

    3. @Larry3,

      The link doesn’t work. Actually, AEU isn’t working for me. Is this happening to anyone else?

  11. too bad 🙁 my all time favorite series is an ATV one.. “the good old days” with amy chan.

  12. Boy oh boy, I think they really need a stimulus package from the government lol! But that will just be wasting taxpayers’ money lahs, ATV dramas have not really been terrific and widely covered by the press in recent years so failure was no longer an option but more of a necessity sooner or later.

  13. I also grew up watching not only TVB but also ATV series and will feel so sad if it just closes down for good… It will seem like a part of me is gone for good too… So sad..

  14. Very sad to hear. I hope this is not the end. I hope ATV be given another chance. I used to watch both TVB and ATV when I was young. Good old days.

  15. What ATV needs is better direction and management. Part of the problem that has always plagued ATV was it’s lack of in-house productions. Most shows are bought from overseas. That’s nice and all for budget reasons but people most of the time want to watch shows that are not dubbed. On top of that ATV has had so many management changes as I’ve heard. Their lack of direction doesn’t help either. They have low budget and end up producing one series a year if they are lucky. They should have started off free to begin with. I heard back then they used to have good series so to be honest I don’t want ATV to shut down. TVB only world is not nice. Yes there will be new channels but ATV should be another good option. The problem is they don’t produce good series or shows at all. No one wants to keep watching series that are from overseas when they can switch over to watch TVB with series that were produced in cantonese originally instead.

    They need to hire real people to work this thing out. I would not like to see ATV close down but at the same time they are not producing any series so that’s why they lack viewership. I’ve heard many of the older ATV series are actually quite good. They need good series, good actors, writers, producers, cinematographers, directors, etc. They need to produce for Hong Kong people and stop their overseas series stuff. It’s just ridiculous at this point. I wish someone would be smart and invest money in more ATV produced drama series instead of buying oversea productions from Mainland or whereever. That’s what’s hurting ATV. There aren’t good enough drama’s or programs convincing viewers to give ATV a chance.

  16. It would definitely be a shame if ATV shuts down due to bankruptcy. Lets hope they’ll pull through.

    1. ATV has how many chances to turn the company around ????

      Many, and it is the same result.

      ATV is really a bad luck company. It should be converted to 100% HKJC horse racing / Mark Six lottery betting channel.

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