Chinese businessman Henry Ho has bought capacity for up to 10 more free-to-air nationwide channels in a shakedown of niche TV.

Ho recently bought rights to an unused frequency owned by the New Zealand Racing Board, making him a "multiplex operator".

His company World TV is in talks with other commercial parties to run channels in the first quarter of next year.

"I don't think we'll get 10 but if it is three or four we would be breaking even," Ho said yesterday.


The new WTV multiplex venture comes as analogue broadcasting moves to digital - which is complete in Hawkes Bay and rolling out across the country.

There are a lot of media for New Zealand's relatively small population but World TV has been making profits in niche media. Ho sees free television's prospects as better than pay.

WTV operates 10 premium subscriber channels for Asian viewers on the Sky TV platform and two free channels on Freeview - CTV8 and TV9.

WTV Sky channels include seven in Chinese languages, two Korean and one Japanese.

Ho said initially that 90 per cent of the revenue for the Sky channels had come from subscriptions and 10 per cent from advertising, and it had been tough for its first three years.

The ratio between advertising and subscription was now close to 50:50.

Ho's experience suggested that the Asian businesses have found models to make niche television channels financially sustainable or profitable.

Rival Chinese broadcaster Stephen Wong runs Chinese language channel TV33.

Hong Kong is one of the global centres for pirating content and Ho says the pay television market was suffering illegal downloads of programming.

The Herald reported last week that there is potential for frequencies allocated to Maori as part of Treaty of Waitangi obligations to be leased back commercially.

More free-to-air frequencies are available, but because of the Government's decision to sell the frequency that has been accessed free to Auckland's Triangle TV, the regional channel is being forced to go to pay television channel Sky.

This story has been changed from an earlier version, which incorrectly named CTV8 as CTV10. It also incorrectly said Stephen Wong ran two channels, when he only runs one - TV33.