Fantastic Television, a new free-to-air entertainment channel under i-Cable Communications, has announced it will begin operations on May 14. The move came despite a recent decision by its parent company to halt investment in i-Cable.

The Cantonese-language channel will broadcast 24-hours a day and will feature self-made and purchased programming of such as entertainment news, lifestyle shows and dramas. An English channel is expected to be in service within 12 months of the Cantonese channel’s launch.

Fantastic TV
Fantastic Television. Photo: Fantastic TV.

The station received a 12-year free-to-air licence from the government in May last year.

The i-Cable Television channel, its sister company known for its local and China news and current affairs programmes, was also offered a 12-year extension of its pay-television licence by the Executive Council. It will come into effect following the expiry of its current licence on May 31.

Funding halted 

Last week, Wharf (Holdings) Limited said in a Hong Kong Stock Exchange announcement that it will cease funding i-Cable upon the expiry of its commitments.

Wharf Holdings said in the announcement that i-Cable made a loss of HK$313 million in 2016. In comparison, Wharf made a core profit of HK$13.8 billion last year, a year-on-year increase of 25 per cent.

The company has been in talks in an effort to sell i-Cable since last year, but no agreement with any buyer could be found.

Cable TV Tower in Tsuen Wan. Photo: Wpcpey via Wikicommons.

The television channel was originally required to tell the government whether it would accept the licence extension by Wednesday, but the channel had asked for permission to postpone the deadline until the end of March.

Gregory So, the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, confirmed the request on Monday.

The establishment of Fantastic Television also came after that of ViuTV last year, a free-to-air entertainment channel operated by telecom giant PCCW.

PCCW also runs paid-television Now TV, which is known for its news and current affairs programmes.

In 2013, the government rejected an application for a free-to-air licence from HKTV, an entertainment channel owned by telecom mogul Ricky Wong Wai-kay. The move sparked mass protests. HKTV reapplied for a licence in 2014.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.