ATV Officially Shuts Down

On March 3, a Hong Kong court ruled liquidators to immediately pull the plug on ATV, the world’s oldest Chinese-language television station. The accounting firm Deloitte, ATV’s appointed liquidator, will be formally handing out termination letters to ATV employees on the morning of Friday, March 4. This announcement marks the official end of ATV, which has been running for 58 years and 280 days.

Precarious financial situations has haunted ATV for many years. In October 2011, the beleaguered Hong Kong station officially filed for bankruptcy, and in the early months of 2015, ATV was repeatedly penalized by the government for failing to pay both their staff and their broadcast license fee, a move that subsequently cost ATV to lose their free-to-air permit. ATV’s digital broadcast spectrum will be replaced by the new free station ViuTV on April 2. ViuTV will officially hit airwaves on April 6.

Days ago, ATV’s major creditor, Wong Ching (王征), sought for the broadcaster’s liquidation. As ATV’s provisional liquidator, Deloitte terminated ATV’s employment contracts on Monday, February 29, and requested for the broadcaster’s closing. This decision was initially met with protest by ATV investors. The court then asked ATV’s major mainland investor, Si Rongbin (司榮彬), to enter a dialogue with Deloitte to discuss about the station’s future and funds, but the two parties failed to come to an agreement, prompting the court to give Deloitte the green-light to dismiss ATV’s remaining 400 staff members and liquidation.

Though all 400 staff members would be officially laid off on Friday, Deloitte clarified on Thursday evening that they would retain some of ATV’s technical, security, and accountant staff to figure out how to shut down ATV’s broadcasting transmissions. Although they are unsure when ATV would be off air, it would definitely be before April 1, when ATV’s free-to-air license officially expires.

Derek Lai (黎嘉恩), Deloitte’s managing partner which is in charge of ATV’s liquidation, said he was not expecting ATV’s ending to come to this. Nonetheless, Lai said the dismissed staff can claim compensation from the assets left behind the liquidation, and can apply for the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund to retrieve owed wages.

ATV: Six Decades of History

ATV’s former name, Rediffusion Television (RTV, 麗的呼聲), officially launched on May 29, 1957 by its English parent company, Rediffusion. As Hong Kong’s first wired television station, users needed to pay a $25 HKD installation fee and a $10 HKD monthly fee to watch RTV programs.

RTV’s first rival station, TVB (無綫電視), officially commenced broadcasting on November 19, 1967. To compete against TVB, which was Hong Kong’s first free-to-air broadcaster, RTV underwent a name change (麗的電視) and launched its own free-to-air station on December 1, 1973. Two years later, another free-to-air broadcaster, Commercial Television (佳藝電視) was launched, but it ended in bankruptcy in 1978. RTV and TVB ruled as Hong Kong’s two only free-to-air broadcasters for the next few decades.

In June 1982, businessman Deacon Chiu (邱德根) bought RTV and renamed it to Asia Television (ATV). ATV’s first artiste training class was established in 1983; among the first class of graduates included Anthony Wong (黃秋生).

ATV went through a series of ownership changes for the next few decades. In 1989, businessman Lim Por-yen (林百欣) became the biggest shareholder of ATV, ending Deacon Chiu’s seven-year reign. ATV recruited many TVB artists over to their network during this time; the higher pay in ATV artist contracts successfully caught the attention of Eric Tsang (曾志偉), Felix Wong (黃日華), Sheren Tang (鄧萃雯), and Lawrence Ng (吳啟華), who said his salary at ATV was ten times more than at TVB.

Despite being known as the world’s first Chinese-language broadcaster, ATV failed to attract avid followers like TVB. While TVB continued to garner strong ratings, ATV’s viewership plummeted, and it further declined to the single digits in the late 2000’s. The numerous high-level management shifts in the last decade negatively impacted ATV’s business and stronghold in the industry. The turbulent political situation eventually forced ATV to cease in-house productions, leading to its demise.

ATV’s Past Glories

ATV (then still RTV) entered a period of great success following the inclusion of Wong Shek-chiu (黃錫照) as the broadcaster’s first ethnic Chinese general manager in 1975. Wong took the risk of using newcoming producers such as Johnny Mak (麥當雄) and Lee Siu-hung (李兆熊) to create television serial dramas for the network, and their productions such as Ten Cases <十大奇案>, Reincarnated <天蠶變>, Fatherland <大地恩情>, and Crocodile Tears <鱷魚淚> became instant classics in Hong Kong. 1979’s Reincarnated became such a big hit that TVB suffered a huge blow in viewership ratings on their part, prompting TVB to discontinue their own programs that were broadcasting around the same time. 1980’s Fatherland, which starred David Lau (劉志榮), Pat Poon (潘志文), and Elliot Ngok (岳華), grabbed 60 percent of total viewership ratings during its time slot, forcing TVB to cancel the weekday broadcast of serial drama Five Easy Pieces <輪流轉>, a show that featured superstars Adam Cheng (鄭少秋), Carol Cheng (鄭裕玲), and Louise Lee (李司棋). The Hong Kong television industry was at its most competitive and healthiest age during the 1970’s and 1980’s.

ATV was at its peak in numbers during the era of Lim Por-yen, who was ATV’s major stakeholder from 1989 to 1998. ATV had over 2,700 employees with over 400 contracted artistes at the time. The in-house dramas produced by ATV in the late 1990s to early 2000s, including Flaming Brothers <縱橫四海> and My Date with a Vampire <我和殭屍個約會>, got as popular as their TVB contemporaries. Flaming Brothers even managed an average rating of 25 points during its final week, defeating TVB’s ratings. ATV’s variety shows also found success around this time; among them was ATV’s most popular program Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? <百萬富翁>, which reached a peak of 39 points.

Source: IHKTV

This article is written by Addy for

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  1. I thought TVB has bought ‘My Date With a Vampire’ since they are using it’s themesong and spoofing the characters in ‘Come On Cousin’. But, it seems, this is not the case. The series was bought by Fox Network Groups Asia and they are planning to remake the series and maybe even a film.

    ‘Flaming Brothers’ may be popular and gain more ratings. But, it can compete with MDWAV on cult status. There are websites built specifically for the series, with info on it’s mythology, characters, vampire convention etc. There are also weibo accounts of MDWAV for different region of China (e.g. MDWAV Guangzhou, MDWAV Shanghai).

  2. I’m just glad that we finally are spared the constant whining and ridiculous nonsense coming from the mouths of all those ATV execs and Mainland investors (even after the shutdown was announced, those damn execs as well as the new owner Si Rong Bin were ‘crying a river’ and slamming Deloitte for ‘killing’ ATV…what a bunch of delusional idiots!).

    The part that I’m a little sad about is ATV’s classic series being sold to other parties — majority of which went to Fox Group Asia, who already has plans to remake some of those series, starting with My Date with a Vampire (reference this article: I don’t remember if veteran actor/producer Tsui Siu Ming was able to buy back his series from ATV (I know he was very keen on preserving those series), but I remember some of the older Cantonese language classics (those old black and white ones usually shown in the midnight/early morning timeslots) were sold to TVB. Hopefully all those parties do their part in preserving those film archives…

    1. @llwy12 what a debacle ATV has been during the last year, when it gets to the stage of not paying your employees month after month. It’s time to put them out of their misery.

      The mainland investors just didn’t know how to run a tv station and stopping local drama production just going to kill it even more.

      RTV /ATV had many classics in the 80’s particularly their Kung fu series.

      As they had really good martial arts choreographers,
      Like Chiu Siu Ming and Ching Siu Tung they eventually went out into the film industry and made lots of HK action movies.
      Wish the classics were available online somehow…

      1. @mulder99 Yea…unfortunately, RTV/ATV’ older classics are proving harder to find than TVB’s classics from that era. I did see a few older ATV ones (i.e Reincarnated, Fatherland, etc) available on DVD a few years back (originals, NOT bootleg versions), but I think even those are off the market now.

        Definitely the 70s and 80s were the best eras for both ATV and TVB in terms of prosperity and healthy competition — for me personally, the 80s era was the most unforgettable, though the first half of the 90s era was good too, but the competition started becoming more ‘unhealthy’ during that time, so that affected things a bit…

    2. @llwy12 i hope someone buys back the kwong wah classics like “the cruel lover” which has disappeared over the years and we are left a heavy editted cantonese version and a full but mandarin dubbed version. I hope someone releases the older classics in their original cut and language.

      As for atv, i was sad once upon a time because it was such an important part of me growing up but atv has disappointed me once too often. The past may have been great but the present is bad and the future is non-existent. I would rather a quick end to atv so we can all move and expect better from whatever company this leaves room for.

      1. @elizabeth I think what compounds the situation more is that alot of the archives were already lost a long time ago. Back in the early 80s, ATV didn’t take very good care of their archives and lost quite a bit of their inventory already due to the way they stored the films. Then, the infamous fire in 1987 that burned down their building in Kowloon Tong also wiped out a good portion of their archives. Luckily, better preservation methods were used in the 90s and some of the other stuff previously lost was also restored, but there is still a rather significant portion that they were never able to restore….now most of that is gone forever.

      2. @llwy12 I think some people have managed to buy the dvds/vcds from Yesasia when ATV was selling them last decade and occasionally on the chinese streaming sites, you can view them. Sadly, I was only a student back then and my mum didn’t want to buy them so I missed out. It is all out of print now but I have managed to grab what I could.

      3. @elizabeth Sometime, we really have to thank the bootleggers or those people who upload old series to the internet.

        Only the really popular/famous classic get re-released officially. The less famous and smaller production will be not get this chance (Maybe the big companies thing the less well-known series are not profitable). So, the only way you can get the small obscure series you want is from the bootleggers or if someone who kept a copy upload it to the internet.

        Btw, anyone know where I can buy ‘Chronicles of the Shadow Swordsman 1985’ starring Damien Lau and Michelle Yim? This novel has been adapted several times, but, the 1985 version is the most faithful to the novel.

      4. @kidd
        But sadly many are also very selfish and do not want to share what they have. I have noticed some just post one or 2 eps and then refuse to upload more. I guess some just want to show off.

        I am a bit sad but then AtV has not produced any series for so many years so in a sense they have been like a shadow for several years now. I guess maybe it is their time to retire now. I will forget all of the joy they have bought to my family and me for many years. Those memories will stay in my heart forever.

        You should check out EBay and there are times you will many original rare DVD sets of atv series that you cannot find elsewhere.

  3. Well, here are some of my memories of RTV\ATV classics which would be good to find and watch again.

    Reincarnated – 1978 starred Norman Chiu

    Princess Chang Ping – 1979 Michelle Mai and Damian Lau

    Dynasty – 1980 starred Alex Man

    Legendary Fok – 1980 Wong Yuen Sun, Michelle Mai

    Dragon Strikes – 1980 Jason Bak Biu , Alex Man Chi Leung

    Young Wong Fei Hung – 1980 Wong Yuen Sun

    Fatherland – 1980 Pat Poon Chi Man, Elliot Ngok Wah

    Taiji Master – 1982 Alex Man

    The Fist (Chen Zhen) 1982 – Bruce Leung Siu Lung

    Tiger Hill Trail – 1983 – Michelle Mai Shuet, , Bruce Leung Siu Lung

    Empress Wu – 1984 – Fung Bo Bo

    Taiji Master II – 1984 Alex Man

    The Four Constables – 1984 Michelle Mai Shuet, , Bruce Leung Siu Lung

    The Young Dowager – 1984 Lau Suet Wah

    Drunken Fist – 1984

    The Rise of the Great Wall -1986 Lau Wing

    The Rise and Fall of the Qing Dynasty – 1987

    The Blood Sword – 1990 Kenny Ho Ka King,Esther Kwan Wing Ho

    Heaven’s Retribution – 1990 – Felix Wong, Simon Yam

    Who is the Winner – 1991 Nathan Chan Ting Wai

    Shanghai Godfather – 1992 Nathan Chan

    Who is the Winner II 1992 Nathan Chan

    Who is the Winner III 1993 – Nathan Chan

    Legend of the Yang Family and The Great General – 1994

    Secret Battle of the Majesties – 1994 Kwong Wah

    Movie Tycoon – 1994 Simon Yam

    Justice Bao – 1995 Ray Lui

    The Good Old Days – 1996 Sheren Tang

    The Pride of Chao Zhou – 1997 Nathan Chan

    My Date With a Vampire 1-3 1998 – 2004 Joey Meng,

    Flaming Brothers – 1999 Michael Tao, Patrick Tam

    Showbiz Tycoon – 2000 Michael Tao

    Central Affairs 1 & 2 – 2005 Michelle Ye, Raymond Wong Ho Yin

    The Men of Justice – 2010 Lawrence Ng, Joey Meng

    All of these rated well for RTV\ATV and highly recommend you see them if you able find copies of them on DVD or online.

    1. @mulder99 check on youtube. I got some from there. I manged to get fatherland 1 & 2 but missed out on 3 so i never got to find ouy if the guy made it home from the American gold rush.

      1. @elizabeth
        Why don’t you guys check out EBay? I saw a few old ATV series on there like Gum Fung Wong, the Rise and Fall of Qing Dynasty( the whole series but it was a bit expensive), the Noble Conflict( Kent Tong,Strawberry Yeung and Erica Choi), and others. Those were all the originals too and some had good prices but it was in Cantonese with no Chinese subs only so I did not get them due to my limited Cantonese. I needed the mandarin track which they sadly did not have. Not sure if they are still available now but you guys should keep looking on eBay and you will see some rare gems as I have seen through the years.

        I was just going through EBay found The Conspiracy,the Noble Conflict and other classic ATV series. Some of them are sold for a good price but they are region 1 and in NTSC format. Any of you guys interested? You should grab them before they are gone.

    2. @mulder99

      More list 🙂

      A Lawyer Can Be Good (1998) – Stephen Au, Eric Wan, Erica Choi

      Coincidentally (1997) – Annie Man, Frankie Lam, Kristy Yang

      Venture Against Time (2003) – Raymond Wong, Ben Wong, Qin Han

      I Have A Date With Spring (1995) – Sheren Tang, Kiki Sheung, Erica Choi, Joey Meng

      The Silver Tycoon (1993) – Felix Wong, Margie Tsang, Nick Cheung

      Return to the Truth (1991) – Kwong Wa, Jackie Lui

      The Good Fella from Temple Street (1991) – Kwong Wa, Michelle Yim, Ewong Yung

      The Year of Chameleon (1997) – Wong Mei, Gilbert Lam, Susan Tse

      The Snow is Red (1996) – Mimi Kung, Kristy Yang, Alice Chan

      Mythical Crane Magic Needle (1992) – Anthony Tang, Mak King Ting, Strawberry Yeung

      Shanghai 1949 (1991) – Anthony Tang, Ewong Yung, Sunny Chan

      The Rise and Fall of Qing Dynasty (1987 – 1992) – this series span 4 seasons chronicling the life of all the emperors in the Qing Dynasty and starred many actors.

      Light of Million Hopes (2003) – Fung Bo Bo, Pung Chi Man, Amy Hu, Kristal Tin, Joey Meng and many others.

      1. @kidd haha good to see another ATV fan here, some of those I’ve seen as well… From all these series, from mid 1990’s til 2000’s the series output and quality started going downhill… With the lost of managed artists and scriptwriters , ratings started going into single figures..
        Never recovered from then on.

        ATV was strongest in the 1980’s and they were up against a very strong TVB and beat TVB many times.

        With crap management running the joint, ATV is lost forever now…

        The new TV players comming to play are not really going down the local production route. They will play safe to
        maximize profits rather than producing quality drama.

        HK needs at least 3 tv stations for a healthy tv industry and also need to get rid off tied contracts to 1 tv station only . Artists should be freelanced and be able work on all stations.

      2. @mulder99 Not sure if you guys read the latest news, but representatives of the Mainland investor Si Rong Bin held a press conference yesterday at ATV’s headquarters and flashed a suitcase full of money at reporters (for a minute there I thought they were filming a gangster flick or something, LOL).  They announced to everyone who would listen that any staff who stay past March will get paid — though they refused to answer the question as to why staff can’t get paid right now, especially since most of them were owed months of back wages (I had read that there were some ATV employees who weren’t paid for 9 months straight!  What employer goes 9 months without paying someone? Though I guess the question should be, how can a public broadcaster not pay some of their employees for 9 months straight – which totally violates the terms of their free TV license by the way – and the government does nothing in response?). 

        And I thought ATV management’s irresponsible comments about salary not being important was bad (a couple weeks ago, one of the ATV execs met with several hundred ATV employees – most of whom hadn’t been paid for months – and literally told them to their faces that “getting paid your salary is not most important”).  Looks like that’s nothing compared to how these Mainland investors handle matters (which I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given how the other Mainland investor Wong Ching pretty much treated ATV like a toy that he threw away after it got old and broken and he got tired playing with it).

      3. @mulder99 Yes, I grew up watching ATV series in the 90s because my uncle operated an ATV rental store back then. So, I became a fan. 🙂

        Series output start going downhill after Uncle Lam sold ATV to new investor because ATV was losing money. I remember in an interview with Andrew Yuen, the actor said that Uncle Lam was a very nice boss. If a producer/director told him that filming on location will do the series good, he will greenlight it. Andrew recounted how the crew of ‘I Come From Guangzhou’ was called back from location shooting because the new boss took over and he didn’t want to spend so much money on filming.

        Can’t blame new boss. Even when ATV produce top quality series, viewers still continue to tune in to TVB. Less advertisement will bring less revenue and ATV need to cut cost.

        Buying series from outside, and giving ATV platform for outside directors like Wong Jing worked for a short while series, but, unable to sustain ATV for the long-term, because not all series achieve good ratings.

        Subsequent change of bosses made things worse.

        Kenneth Chan, another interview, said that the problem with ATV is it changed hands to fast. Every time there were good ideas that look sustainable, it got discontinued when a new boss came. Nothing has enough time to develope.

  4. this should have been done long long ago…atv had been under the shadow of tvb and worst it has never been able to produce a quality drama even with veteran actors or actresses…something is very wrong.

  5. wow without HKTV and ATV… TVB is twerking of joy right now… this is sooo bad! no competition is no good!!!

  6. BREAKING NEWS!  LOL…what a farce!  Si Rong Bin managed to strike a deal with Deloitte last minute so now ATV won’t be shut down until April 1st when it’s license is officially revoked.  Damn them! Gawd, just put everyone out of this misery, please and stop jerking everyone around with this stupid game!

  7. I don’t feel it’s a pity. With their poor management and decision-making, they should have seen it coming a long time ago. What is surprising to me is how they even sustained to now with wages not being paid and not broadcasting news as part of their license guidelines.

  8. Which date it actually shuts is immaterial cos the writing is on the wall. This is a dead company kept on life support system. I miss its glory days and some of the best actors around today actually came from ATV.

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