Television in Hong Kong came into being during the British Hong Kong period. At present, it has two commercial broadcast television networks, TVB, and HKTVE, with a third one Fantastic TV upcoming in 2017; while RTHK is Hong Kong's public broadcaster .
Rediffusion Television (RTV), launched on 29 May 1957, is Hong Kong's first commercial television network, later renamed as Asia Television (ATV). While it had been run as a cable subscription service for almost two decades, RTV was prompted to switch to terrestrial few years after the launch of Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) in 1967, the territory's first free-to-air commercial station and remains the predominant TV station in the territory. In 1976, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) also joined the TV scene (radio from 1949). All stations provide Cantonese and English services.
There was a short-lived network called Commercial Television that opened in 1975, but it went into bankruptcy merely after three years in running (see 1970s in Hong Kong). The binary oligarchy of free television in Hong Kong has since been unchanged.
In April 2016, following the Executive Council's decision not to renew ATV's broadcast licence over multiple controversies, HKTVE, commonly known as ViuTV, began its service and became the territory's only alternative to TVB. RTHK, the public broadcaster, took over the analogue frequency of ATV and now also runs its own digital channels. Before this arrangement, RTHK programmes were only aired on TVB, ATV and Cable TV, a subscription network, in certain prime time slots.
There is also an Internet television and VOD channel called Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV, owned by City Telecom) which was launched in 2014 and can be viewed on smart TVs, set-top boxes, personal computers, smartphones and tablet computers.
Paid cable and satellite television are also widespread. Local service providers include Cable TV and Now TV. Hong Kong's soap drama, comedy series and variety show productions reach mass audiences throughout the Cantonese-speaking, and even Mandarin-speaking, world. Broadcast media and news are provided by several companies, one of which is government-run. Television provides the major source of news and entertainment for the average family. Television in Hong Kong is not subject to China's regulatory or 'content' control and is under the purview of the Communications Authority in Hong Kong.
Although Hong Kong is not required to follow China's standard, Hong Kong government nevertheless opted to use DMB-T/H (now known as DTMB) as the digital television broadcast standard in 2004 (hence rejecting the DVB-T standard originally proposed in 1998 and trialled in 2000). The official commencement of digital TV broadcasting began at 7pm on 31 December 2007 as the first digital TV signal transmitter in Tsz Wan Shan went online earlier in December.
In October 2007, both broadcasting companies agreed to utilise the MPEG2 video format for simulcasting channels (TVB Jade, ATV Home, TVB Pearl and ATV World); the H.264 format will be implemented for all digital-broadcasting-only channels.
For the audio codec, usual DTMB set-top boxes will support MPEG-1 Audio Layer II (MP2) for stereo audio tracks, and Dolby AC-3 for surround sound audio tracks. TVB will also implement the use of MHEG-5 technology for providing interactive features, named "TVB Interactive", and providing a logo for consumers to identify set-top boxes with MHEG-5 middleware support. The official specification defines standard-definition broadcasting will be in 576i at 25 frame/s and high-definition broadcasting in 720p at 50 Hz or 1080i at 25 Hz.
Digital television will phased in, as corresponding transmitters are ready. All major transmitters are expected to be completed by 15 August 2008, covering at least 75 percent of the Hong Kong population. Digital switchover is expected to take place in 2020, postponed from the originally planned 2015.
The Office of Telecommunications Authority of Hong Kong announced that there will be two versions of set-top boxes available in the market at the very start of HDTV transmission: one is the basic-tier receiver, with basic reception of signals transmitted and restricted to standard-definition contents and decoding of MPEG-2, and another one is the higher-tier receiver, which receives all standard-definition and high-definition contents as it can decode both MPEG-2 and H.264 content, and comes at a higher price. Logos and labels for consumers to identify the class of the set-top box were released on 28 November 2007.
OFTA promises the final price for basic-tier receivers will be "a few hundred" Hong Kong dollars and a higher-tier receivers will be "more than a thousand Hong Kong dollars". As of June 2007, companies in PRC made basic-tier receivers are available for more than HK$1000 and higher-tier receivers were also made later with price range from HK$1500 to over HK$2000. All standard-definition-only TV sets will require a set-top box to receive TV signals after the planned termination of analogue TV broadcasting and transmission in 2015, postponed from 2012.Cable TV Hong Kong (Hong Kong Cable Television Ltd): controlled by Wharf Holdings, operates over 100 channels with programmes broadcast in English, Cantonese, Putonghua and other languages.
Now TV (PCCW-HKT Interactive Multimedia Services Ltd): provides 16 free channels and over 80 pay channels with programmes broadcast in English language, Cantonese and Putonghua.
HKBN bbTV (Hong Kong Broadband Network Ltd): provides over 70 pay channels.
STAR TV (Satellite Television for Asian Region Hong Kong)
Phoenix Television: also broadcast in Greater China
TVB Pay Vision: provides over 30 pay channels, included eight TVB channels, and Celestial Movies, a movie channel which screens movies produced by Shaw Brothers (HK) Ltd, the parent company of TVB.