Ricky Wong Encourages HKTV Directors to Write “Pilot Episodes”

The mastermind behind HKTV, Ricky Wong (王維基), has revealed that he plans emulate American television production formats by producing a pilot episode for every proposed HKTV television drama in the coming future.

HKTV, a planned third television station for Hong Kong, is still fighting its way to successfully register a free-to-air broadcasting license from the Hong Kong government. With eight television dramas unaired and many more television variety programs left in the warehouse, HKTV has already lost over $200 million HKD to television programming alone last year.

The company is also in three ongoing lawsuits against ATV and the Hong Kong Economic Journal, adding more financial pressures to the newborn company.

Standalone “Pilot Episodes”

To lower financial spending, save up more resources, and prevent the possibility of “warehousing” dramas, Ricky ordered HKTV’s directors and scriptwriters to first produce a television pilot – a standalone episode – for each pitched television drama. The pilot will then be sent to a committee for screening, and if reviews are positive, Ricky will go ahead and give the television show a green light.

Many of HKTV’s production crew had voiced their opposition on the new format, arguing that it would be a waste of time and effort if the pilot ultimately gets turned down. An anonymous HKTV scriptwriter expressed, “We will still get our salary by the end of the month, but this new system is an obvious excuse to spend less money! We all work hard on our scripts; if only one episode gets filmed, and it gets rejected in the end, that will be a huge waste on our efforts!”

HKTV spokesperson, Jessie, stated, “We are still spending over $1 million HKD per episode in our dramas, and we will not spend to any less than that.”

Nonetheless, Jessica confirmed that HKTV will incorporate the new television pilot format for their upcoming productions. “We will test this pilot format in our upcoming drama Flow of the Years <歲月流情>, which will begin production at the end of the month. We will work on some opinion surveys too. The same amount of money will be spent on each production; the only difference is that the production time will be extended. It’s fine. We still don’t have our license yet, so it’s a good thing to explore some more and come up with new topics for our dramas.”

HKTV artists expressed their support on the new production format. Ha Yu (夏雨) said, “Although this will be my first time working with [Ricky], I know that he is very sincere about producing dramas that are different from TVB’s. Filming and re-shooting each episode will require a great amount of time and money, but that is all for quality guarantee.” Ha Yu, who will star in the pilot of Flow of the Years, revealed that the drama was planned to begin shooting in early March, but due to script rewrites and reedits, the filming was postponed to late April.

Felix Wong (黃日華) released a statement through his manager, expressing that he also supports the new pilot format. “It’s good to see something new. It will take time to get used to the new system, because the new format will definitely affect artists’ schedules. However, [Felix] and Ricky have made an agreement, so the new format will not be a problem.”

Leila Tong (唐寧) said, “I’ve already filmed two dramas for HKTV, and I know the company has high requirements for their dramas. Doing a test pilot is a good thing.”

Source: Sudden #926 via ihktv.com

This article is written by Addy for JayneStars.com.

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  1. Very Hollywood. If this is TVB’s way, no drama will be filmed beyond 1st episode since most TVB series, 1st episodes are mostly always crappy. Why not read the script first. Make complete script, all 30 or 40 episodes, get script reading with the actors and see if it is any good?

    1. I think there’s a notable difference in the production aspects of a tv drama in Canada, America and of course, China/Hong Kong.

      And i feel that it’s still quite early to judge or point fingers at HKTV. Until then, it may be best to be optimistic.

  2. Kinda like American TV shows. The pilot episode is a test to see if the series gets picked up.

  3. Actually not surprised, since Ricky Wong has been emulating the Western way of doing things throughout the past few years anyway (for example, the 8-12 hour workday, investing in filming equipment that’s used in Hollywood movies, etc.).  The HK Media is pretty much making a big deal of everything Ricky Wong and HKTV does because it’s so different from what they’re used to seeing the past 4 to 5 decades with TVB and ATV….in my opinion, a lot of the negative criticism towards HKTV and RW is because the ‘TVB way’ of running the television industry has been so ingrained in HK people’s brains for decades that now when someone comes in and tries to overhaul the process, everyone freaks out.  It’s kind of sad in a sense because it means that HK audiences in general are not willing to accept change, which of course severely limits the industry’s growth/development.  I honestly feel that RW is fighting an uphill battle with this free-to-air television thing in HK and he’s much better off just focusing on the overseas market instead – at least we here are much more accepting of what he’s trying to do and are actually more appreciative of his efforts to bring us higher quality TV series….

    1. To me, it doesn’t seem like it’s negative criticism by not doing it the “TVB way” but more because it’s not the Hong Kong way? The HK way of entertainment whether it is tv, movies, or music, just moves in a lot faster pace than the American way. The networks in the US have a lot more money that they can waste in making these pilots, and even if they don’t get picked up by a major network, they can still try and sell it to one of the cable companies. For a startup company that is already losing $200 million, they need to think of ways that will work for their target audience in HK instead of emulating a model that works in US.

      1. @AC:  True…I agree with you about the ‘Hong Kong way’ thing (though it can also be argued that the ‘TVB way’ IS the ‘Hong Kong way’ given TVB’s dominance in HK).


        Well, I wouldn’t necessarily call Ricky Wong’s company a ‘start-up’ per say (though when it comes to television, it sure does seem that way).  While I agree that from a business perspective, RW should think of ways that will work for his target audience in HK, part of me also feels that he should think about changing that ‘target audience’.  With everything that has happened the past 3 years, I feel that RW is wasting his time (and money) now by continuing to make his ‘target’ the HK audience / HK television market, especially since it’s obvious that he’s most likely not going to get anywhere in the long run (due to how culturally ingrained the TV industry operating system is in HK).  Since he already had plans initially to make Web/Internet versions of all his series (due to the limitations of television, since certain scenes won’t pass the Broadcasting Authority’s strict guidelines anyway) and thereby make those series more accessible to a wider range of audiences (especially overseas ones), why not just put more time and energy on this and forget about the HK market?   Sure, he does have a backup plan for overseas release of his series in case the licensing thing fails, but up to this point, he’s also been very insistent about giving HK audiences the chance to view the series too and has been unwilling to budge with this point, despite all the opposition he’s been facing.  In my opinion – screw the HK audiences and just let them stick to their housewife-friendly TVB dramas….why ruin it for the rest of us who truly want to watch better quality, more varied TV series?

      2. @llwy12,

        From a business perspective I totally agree with you i.e screw the HK audience and target other markets that appreciate quality series in cantonese.

        But according to RW part of the reason for starting his own broadcasting company was bc he couldn’t stand how bad HK TV series have become hence the name HKTV. Sure he could’ve investested his money somewhere else that would produce higher yield and less risk.

        HK audience are prolly beyond redemption been poisoned by TVB for too long and became addicted to rubbish series, LOL

      3. @exoidus: Yes, true, but there should come a time when enough is enough – meaning RW should recognize that his efforts aren’t paying off (and never will) and therefore should just stop the bleeding while he still can. It’s almost like trying to ‘reform’ a friend who has a helplessly bad lifelong addiction to drugs and alcohol – if you’ve put in your best effort and did everything you could for your friend, yet you’re getting nowhere (and most importantly, the friend doesn’t even want to be ‘reformed’ and scoffs at your efforts in trying to help), why continue to bang your head against the wall and sacrifice so much for him/her?

        Sure, I admire RW’s perseverance in trying to change the HK television industry for the better, but honestly, it’s become a fruitless cause….sooner or later, that ‘perseverance’ is going to turn into ‘foolishness’….might as well get out when he still can…

      4. @llwy12,

        Wasn’t there a market research where abt 60% of the sample supported the free licenses? I think the major problem isn’t with the audience, but TVB (with Gov. help) doing all in their power to retain their monopoly.

        RW, prolly thinks that if he can show his quality series to the HK audience he will be able to open their eyes that have been closed for so long 🙂

        I just hope to watch their series soon, so tired of waiting…

      5. @exoidus:  Yes, such a survey was conducted and I believe the number was more like 80% rather than 60% — but there have been claims about the survey being ‘suspect’ since it doesn’t cover a very wide audience range supposedly (though that could just be an excuse by the naysayers trying to discount the survey).   Also, judging by general audience reaction in terms of forums, weibo, news commentary, etc. whenever any news/info related to Ricky Wong or HKTV comes out (whether positive or negative), the overall sentiment (from the Media and general public) has been largely negative – to the point that even the artists who work for HKTV are being ‘bashed’ merely for being ‘associated’ with Ricky Wong (for example:  most of those artists who jumped ship to HKTV have largely been portrayed as ‘traitors’ by majority of the HK Media, plus some of the artists and behind the scenes people were ‘harassed’ on Weibo, etc.). I guess the vast majority of HK citizens hate Ricky Wong, though I can’t understand why – true, he does have an annoying personality and comes across as arrogant most of the time, plus he has a big mouth and sometimes says the wrong things, but then again there are a lot of people like that in HK and I don’t see them garnering nearly as much ‘hate’.

         Case in point – just look at some of the comments on this site whenever an article related to Ricky Wong and HKTV is posted….shows that there are quite a few people out there who don’t have much regard for RW or his company.  I honestly could care less about what people’s feelings are toward Ricky Wong, but there’s no reason why everyone who works for his company should ‘take a beating’ when all they did was switch to a company that they felt was better suited to them – people can ‘hate’ Ricky Wong all they want, doesn’t matter much to me, but at least channel that ‘hatred’ appropriately (meaning don’t drag the artists and others who work for HKTV into it without valid reason)…

    2. I agree with you!
      It seems like Hong Kong viewers don’t want to move on! It’s good to see changes happen within the Television Broadcasting industry. The ongoing negative criticism means that other media companies are feeling threatened!

  4. What kind of lawsuit are they involved in with the Hong Kong Economic Journal? That seems weird.

    What’s prevent NowTV and that other channel from getting their free to air broadcasting license? Are there any lawsuits against them or is it just the government that keeps stalling?

    1. I think they’re referring to the defamation lawsuit that Ricky Wong filed against one of the newspapers (not sure if it’s the HKEJ, as I only recognize the Chinese name of the paper, not the English one) – which by the way, he recently lost, so the ball is in his court again as to whether he wants to appeal or not.


      As for NowTV and I-Cable – they’re pretty much in the same boat as HKTV in that they are also awaiting their free to air licenses…it’s just that they’ve been less vocal about it and they have ‘less to lose’ in a sense because both companies are already cable operators in the Hong Kong TV market, so even if they don’t get their licenses, it’s not as big a deal (which is probably why they’ve been keeping relatively low-profile and quiet about the whole thing compared to HKTV’s Ricky Wong).


      The government is definitely stalling in this license issuance thing (come on now – it’s been 3 years already and they still can’t make a decision?) but there is also legal opposition from TVB and ATV in the form of judicial reviews launched against the Broadcasting Authority (with further legal action threatened if the licenses get issued) that also played a part in all the delays.  And at the end of the day, if the government does end up ‘reneging’ on their promise to open up the HK television market (which is what started this whole bid for additional free TV licenses in the first place), there’s no doubt that Ricky Wong will be launching lawsuits of his own against the government (he has already made that point pretty clear) – in comparisons, nowTV and i-Cable probably won’t care, since they are already operating as a television broadcaster anyway.  This is partly why I said earlier that Ricky is fighting an uphill battle because either way we slice it – no matter which side ends up triumphing – this whole situation will get endlessly tangled up in courts for years to come….

  5. He needs a PLAN B before these dramas are outdated.

  6. Of course those artists will support it, they have no where else to go. TVB leftovers…

    1. I don’t think they are tvb ‘leftovers’. I mean it’s Ha Yu and Felix Wong. They are both pretty well-liked. Leila Tong is a good actress, much more versatile than the current fadans.

  7. It seems that it will end up with the ones with commercial value, and high pressure to the crew. JI qould reather refine the scripts and go careful casting.

  8. That is the worst idea ever. Pilots will never work in HK. HK actors have to film multiple series a year whereas the main cast of an American series films only one series a year. If a HK actor participates in multiple pilots for HKTV and more than one gets picked up, the schedule would be hectic. If they postpone the filming of a series after the pilot gets picked up, then the other actors’ schedules will be affected. If they try to replace the cast after a pilot, then it won’t be the same series anymore. Because HK actors need to film so many series, the only way it will work is if they have planned filming schedules. They can’t just pick up a pilot and expect people to be free.

    1. I think it would actually be easier for them. US actors get locked in for a year or years. Since HK actors film so quickly, it wouldn’t be hard to film multiple series each year.
      They are paid on a series basis so I would think they have an open schedule until the next series starts filming.
      I just think it would be easier to fit it in if they film each series in blocks, eventually one will be convenient for all involved and it wont be years away from the airing of the pilot like it would be in the US.

  9. What they need to do is set up something like HULU, where people can watch all the pilots and afterwards vote on them or comment on them. That way they can make money from commercials and ad revenue.

    Who need a proper BC license when they can have an online tv station and stop losing money. They can always rerun the episodes properly on the TV when they get the station.

    They will see immediately what the support is like for a new series and what people liked/disliked about it.
    It will also get people talking about it and hopefully spur the Gov. into quicker action if they see so many people supporting it.
    I want HKTV to succeed so badly, but they keep making excuses for not taking an alternate approach to people blocking their way.

  10. I am too tired of the lousy TV series produced by TVB. I am astonished also at ATV’s inability to show they are still keen to survive. I can’t wait for RW’s new TV company to bring us new excitement.

  11. FYI, TVB loses bid for TV licences review. they can still appeal to the court.

    Stupid Hong Kong government still has not granted the licenses to other tv stations

  12. i kind of agree with Pilot Episodes, IT may be look great on paper but i would look bad on screen. Why spent so much time and efforts on an series that you know it going to fail from the start.

    only negative side is Schedules…

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