Hong Kong -- The head of Hong Kong's pioneering
video-on-demand project is expected to leave and take over the local operations of an
American bank, according to local news reports.
William Lo, managing director of Hongkong Telecom
Interactive Media Services, will reportedly join a U.S. investment bank by the end of the
year. Hongkong Telecom IMS operates the Interactive TV (iTV) VOD service and the
Netvigator Internet service.
Allen Ma, head of Hongkong Telecom's mobile-phone
service, is seen as the favorite to succeed Lo.
Hongkong Telecom IMS would not confirm nor deny talk of
Lo's departure, which was widely reported in both Chinese- and English-language
media. "We are not prepared to comment on press speculation about this company,"
a spokeswoman said.
Lo joined Hongkong Telecom in 1994 to head up the VOD
project. After three postponed launch dates, the service began operating commercially in
March. But iTV has been dogged by perceptions of high rates, limited movie and music-video
choices, poor picture quality and slow delivery speed.
The company has also been a victim of Hong Kong's
recession, which has led to widespread salary cuts and record unemployment levels.
The spokeswoman said the VOD service had 100,000
subscribers as of two months ago -- the latest date for which the company would provide
data. She added that senior management had ordered a ban on releasing regular subscription
figures to the public.
Hongkong Telecom laid off 270 middle managers last month,
and the company cut the salaries of 30 senior staff members by 10 percent.
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