TVB Faces Mass Resignations and Talent Drain; Monopoly Over Hong Kong Free TV Market Broken

TVB was faced with a plethora of problems recently. Following the corruption scandal of TVB executive, Stephen Chan (陳志雲), and senior management fighting over the validity of royalties, a large number of TVB employees resigned recently. This included the departure of over ten scriptwriters. If the situation continues to deteriorate, many series currently in production may be greatly affected. Popular artists, such as Fala Chen (陳法拉), Myolie Wu (胡杏兒), and Wayne Lai’s (黎耀祥) work may be halted at any time due to disruption in the production process of currently filmed series.

TVB Faces Stiff Competition From Rival TV Stations

In 2012, there will be an addition of three free broadcasting television stations in Hong Kong, which includes Ricky Wong’s (王維基) City Telecom, Richard Li’s (李澤楷) Now TV, and iCable’s free broadcasting arm. The Hong Kong Broadcasting Authority has completed the examination and approved the three companies’ petition for the free television broadcasting licenses, while the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau will likely submit the materials to the Executive Council for review within one month. Next year, there will be three new free local television stations competiting with TVB and ATV.

Since former TVB executive, Ho Lai Chuen (何麗全), moved to rival station, Now TV, he  has been recruiting ex-colleagues to join him at the new company. According to reliable sources, more than half of TVB artists and production staff were being actively recruited by Ricky Wong’s City Telecom. In addition to promising salary increases, City Telecom allegedly will pay for the early contract termination fees of TVB employees interested in working at the new company.

It was understood that TVB had more than thirty employees who handed in their resignation letters, in which the directing and scriptwriting departments were the hardest hit. Even Producer Lee Tim Sing (李添勝) became the object of recruitment. It was understood that “Golden Scriptwriter” Cheung Wah Biu (張華標), who had agreed to return to TVB earlier to partner with Tim Gor on Rosy Business 3 <巾幗梟雄3>, was recently recruited to join City Telecom as well.

Allegedly, over ten scriptwriters resigned due to low salary wages at TVB.  The production department was severely impacted. A high-level emergency response plan was drafted to retain employees, including increasing salaries by half.

TVB Acknowledges Resignation Movement

Asked about recent resignnations at TVB, Deputy Director of External Affairs, Tsang Sing Ming (曾醒明), noted that TVB received no more than ten resignation letters to-date and that the situation was not serious, “There are 280 employees in the Program Development Division, with over 80 scriptwriters. The remaining staff perform data collection and writing duties. Over the last several days, the resignations came mainly from the drama department. The number of resignations were a little higher than usual.”

Asked whether TVB immediately offered salary raises to retain employees, Mr. Tsang said, “The Human Resources department said that salaries were adjusted in July, with the most generous increases occurring mainly among assistant director and junior scriptwriter positions.” Mr. Tsang stated that TVB had a large number of employees; staff turnover and new employees joining the company were normal occurrences. Mr. Tsang stressed that the temporary influx of resignations did not have an impact on production.

Producer Lee Tim Sing admitted that former TVB employees were recruited by other television stations. However, Tim Gor turned down other companies’ recruitment offers, “My contract will not expire until next year. At that time, I will be 65-years-old and my capacity will be limited.”

Tim Gor admitted that working in TVB will push one to his own death, “The work never ends! Since arriving at work, I have worked from morning until night.” Regarding TVB artists and production staff being hired to work for other televsion stations, Tim Gor acknowledged that he heard this was the case, stating it was time TVB examined the reason why employees were filled with grievances.

Wayne Lai Urges Wage Increase

TVB may suffer a “vacuum” of scriptwriters at any time. Series currently being filmed, Palace Schemes of East and West <東西宮略>, starring Fala Chen (陳法拉) and Roger Kwok (郭晉安), and Lucky Father <當旺爸爸> starring Linda Chung (鍾嘉欣) and Steven Ma (馬浚偉) will inevitably be affected. Filming The King Makers <造王者>, Wayne Lai (黎耀祥) was not concerned that the current resignation movement will affect the quality of the series. “There will be senior, experienced staff overseeing [the production process].”

Wayne Lai also felt that salary increases were a priority, “In fact, the turnover in scriptwriters has always been a serious matter. Based on what I know, even a scriptwriter possessing a university degree will only receive a monthly salary of several thousand dollars. I would like to take this opportunity to say that TVB should increase the salaries for the company’s artists and production crew in order to increase morale.”

Currently filming Exchanging Happiness, Myolie Wu said, ” TVB films numerous series each year. Even if faced with such a situation [high staff turnover], it will be able to handle it.” Appearing at a promotional event, Maggie Cheung felt that staff turnover at television stations were the norm.

Excerpt from Oriental Daily and Appledaily

Jayne: Finally, TVB’s monopoly over the free local television market in Hong Kong is broken. It appears that among the new free television stations, City Telecom has been the most aggressive in recruiting former TVB talent. I believe City Telecom had successfully recruited scriptwriter, Cheung Wah Biu, who had promised to return to TVB until he was lured by a higher salary.

No wonder TVB is scurrying to film all these heavyweight dramas for 2012, producing numerous sequels such as “War and Beauty 2” and “Ghetto Justice 2” since the stakes are now raised and there is increased pressure to maintain high ratings. ATV will likely continue to tank amidst the competition, unless one of the new free broadcasting companies decides to buy them out.

Perhaps that was also the reason why Sir Run Run Shaw and Mona Fong decided to sell their shares at TVB to Charles Chan and focus their energy on Shaw Brothers instead. The timing of the sale occurred at just the right time.

Will “Shell King” Charles Chan be able to continue to grow TVB amidst new competition and the recent talent drain? Richard Li may have the most cash among all the players. How will this corporate drama unfold in the Hong Kong broadcasting industry? Hopefully, audiences and true talent will benefit onwards.

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  1. YES!! Finally TVB’s monopoly is coming to end. I hope TVB uses this change to lure in better actors, better scriptwriters, and higher quality production. I also hope that the new television stations will also do the same in trying to compete with TVB.

  2. I hope this leads to higher pay for their staff!

    I actually don’t think it’ll make that much of an impact towards TVB though. ATV used to try and get tvb stars or other big stars to film their series and it doesn’t really improve their ratings. Also, I think people are used to tvb and people like familiar stuff so viewers will continue to watch them. TVB still has the advantage and is able to create stars. It might be able to take away some of the behind-the-scenes staff, but I don’t think it’ll be able to take away any actors/actresses that are currently signed to tvb. It’s too much of a risk for them.

  3. more competition = better quality dramas. and hopefully more tv every night for me to “boil” =)

  4. looking forward to a day where all of the stations produce talented artists and fight for tv king and queen awards, lol

  5. Many ppl from TVB ran to NowTV, maybe NowTV will become the new TVB, hehe.

    BTW, there was time ATV’s status is higher than TVB. Look at them now and maybe TVB will end up – the – same.

    1. ATV’s status has never been higher than TVB. ATV evolved from an older company (Rediffusion), but, TVB was the first free TV and ATV only joined later when TVB already a strong hold of the TV viewers. TVB has never lost this monopoly. ATV gave a good fight and was able to snatch quite a lot of ratings in the 80s and 90s, but, they have never succeeded in gaining an upperhand. This was said by ex-ATV producers to producers great ATV classics like ‘The Fatherland’. When they joined ATV, they were full of fight spirit. But, they could not beat the ‘habitual rating’ of TVB. I grow up watch ATV series and from my knowledge, TVB series has always been the more popular and preferred choice by viewers. (I watch ATV instead because my uncle operated an ATV video rental store before).

      But, situation now looks better for the new rival stations because younger generation of viewers are not like older viewers where their choices of entertainment were limit. Younger viewers are exposed to more variety of series from different country. They won’t be as loyal to TVB and easier to switch to other channel.

      1. Wasn’t there a series starring Louise Lee in TVB that was stopped abruptly, because ATV is winning the ratings, and TVB tried to get momentum back by airing a Liza Wang series?

      2. The series is called ‘Five Easy Pieces’ (輪流傳) and the ATV series that snatch its ratings is The Fatherland (大地恩情). According to the producer of FEP, The Fatherland was able to snatch a lot of ratings, but, rating of FEP was still higher. But, at that time, TVB need to negotiated a new (higher) advertising fee with advertisers. They need to give a good showing to advertisers to have better bargaining power. So, they stopped FEP to air the Liza Wang series to snatch back the ratings.

        Through out their history, ATV was able to produce series that snatch the ratings from TVB on and off. ‘My Date With a Vampire’ was another one of them. But, it’s never constant.

      3. Kidd, which Liza series replaced FEP? I knew before but I forgot..hehe

      4. @ Masaharu

        “which Liza series replaced FEP? I knew before but I forgot..hehe”

        The Shell Game (千王之王)

      5. Well the ATV Fatherland have no match for The Shell Games,The Fatherland was long and boring,my parent stop watching after episode 10,actually the Louise Lee serial are more better have the serial have some fight scene .agree?

    2. I love the song, 輪流傳, by Adam Cheng. Have not watched the series though.

      1. I watch 輪流傳 recently. It’s a very good series. This series takes time to built up the story. So, the beginning is slow. But, it gets better and better. I see a lot of potential in the series. I was sad when it ended abruptly and wish very much that someone will continue the story. I want to know what happen to the characters.

        The first part focus mostly on Louis Lee and Carol Cheng’s character. The other 3 main characters’ story just started to get excited and it ended. 🙁

      2. Pretty awkward to have a drama stopped abruptly just like that 😐 Did TVB release the DVD later?

  6. Now TV seem to be the strongest TVB competitor now. Quite a number of TVB staff has gone to Now TV.

    I’m actually more worried for ATV. ATV is already in such a dismal state. With 3 new free TV as competitor, I’m worried that they will finally close down. Not only TVB, ATV staff (especially the drama department) will go to rival station too since there’s nothing much to do in ATV.

    1. ATV still can collaborate with China like they are doing now.

      Look at the rating report and ATV’s highest stuff is 5-6 points. Still the same for years and dun chance. So I guess the effect is only big to TVB and not change much for ATV.

    2. Now TV is almost like TVB’s second channel. (Yet, Now TV {IPTV} has TVB Payvision package subscription deal}.d They sort of “friends”.

    3. I think ATV loyalist like Eric Wan shall leave ATV for tvb section,have he follow Nick Cheung footstep in 1990an leave ATV for TVB ,he could be popular movies actor by now,i saw recenty some former ATV star appear in TVB Lives of Ommision (the old gangster who give order a killer to kill lit gor in prison) and The other Truth ,am i right?

  7. ” I believe City Telecom had successfully recruited scriptwriter, Cheung Wah Biu, who had promised to return to TVB until he was lured by a higher salary.”

    The reason Cheung Wah Biu went back on his promise was because the Taiwan company he worked with persuaded him to stay and allowed him to work from home and writing his script in HK. This was stated in the article that reported on the cancellation of RB3 plan.

    1. I heard tat Cheung is working for a media company owned by Next media corporation, is it true?

      If it is, I have no doubt why Next media corporation magazines can have that good “scripts”. Next should try to use their reporters to write scripts and make series. They’ll provide very promising series.

  8. I’ve never seen any series so far from NowTV so can’t really comment on their quality of show. But I certainly hope whichever has the most talents will produce more and better quality series and maybe SM doesn’t need to run to mainland to do series since there are more option of employers to choose from but then again, the reason for SM to choose Mainland is because of higher pay.

    1. By now, I think NowTV is focusing on shows than series. They buy series from outside to air and I dun think they are producing their series, at least atm.

      I mean I-cable, NowTV are still small now so they put some investments in other media companies’ series and then buy, air them on TV but not like TVB (yet).

  9. I believe in fair play and since TVB has been grabbing the market share for so long, it’s about time (nonetheless a bit too late) for other players to join in. Competition helps one to improve. Seriously there are really not that many good and worth-your-time-watching type of TVB drama recently.

    I guess when the company treats you like a piece of crap, you need to find the opportunity else where. Loyalty? What is that when you need to protect your own rice bowl.

  10. I dun think TVB will down easily. There are a lot of loyal audience weather in hk and foreign country such as malaysia, singapore, etc still watch their series even though their series are crap.Their current artists still capture the heart of nitizen and their fanbase should not underestimate

    1. TVB will still be ratings king when 3 other tv stations joined the free tv market in Hong Kong. There is a chance if TVB f—ks up badly and viewers turn to other channels. It has happen before way way long time ago. Given TVB bad news lately, We may see it happen soon if changes are not being made now.

  11. I welcome this. Already the scripts are mostly sh*tty and now they have left and what else is left? Good good but will we see familiar faces in other channels?

  12. I just noticed TVB mascot falling flat on its face!! That is funny!!

  13. its sad that tvb still uses those cheap a$$ special effects. like its so bad, its looks like its done with photoshop or some cheap software. that a 5 year old did. no wonder ppl are leaving. cant even film crash or explosion scenes.

  14. Think the overall winner out of all will be the Hong Kong citizens who would benefit the most with five free broadcasting channels in their television sets!

    Plus I think this is definitely a piece of good news, maybe they will finally listen to the voices of their employees from now on! 😛

  15. Regarding stars leaving, it’s good news to those newer ones, they now have a chance to move up!But a show without some big names really needs a GREAT script!

    So TVB should pay their top writers MORE!!!!

  16. Yes, I do agree with you, Ada, that TVB Treat their “top writers” better with higher wages, etc. In other words, TVB should aim for quality and rival their competitors in that way. Good luck to TVB!

  17. I think the exodus is only just beginning, those who haven’t left should be looking at their pay by now and salivating at what they may become.

    The new and younger companies, example facebook, google are usually more nimble in establishing themselves quickly; as with the dinosaurs, old track records are worth just 2 cents in this age.

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