Hong Kong’s leading phone company PCCW is branching out into pay-TV.

PCCW – which provides fixed-line voice and internet services – is to offer TV channels to its 480,000 broadband web customers. Dubbed Now Broadband TV and slated for launch this month, the television service includes 23 different stations, each sold individually rather than in the bundles favoured by cable and satellite operators.

Content available on Now includes film, news and sport channels, plus several US offerings such as MGM, Hallmark and the Discovery package. The firm hopes to add ten or more extra stations by the end of 2003.

PCCW’s previous attempts to deliver TV through its phone and internet lines have been thwarted by costly and inefficient technology. However, digital-compression methods have now advanced to a stage where DVD-quality video signals can be sent via some phone lines.

The channels will be broadcast to broadband customers via a digital decoder, which PCCW will provide free of charge.

The move is an attempt to combat discount phone operators. “We're looking for new ways of creating products and services in which we could maintain premium pricing, rather than just have the same services as everybody else and only fight on a price basis,” explained Mike Butcher, chief operating officer at PCCW.

Butcher hopes the TV service will gain 150,000 customers by year-end.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff