TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai announced Tuesday he will sell his prized Taiwan television business, best known for its fanciful animated takes on political and celebrity scandals, because of big financial losses.
In a brief letter to employees of his Next Media Group, Lai apologized for his “failure” in running Next TV.
Next TV has incurred losses of over $340 million since it was founded in Taipei three years ago, says Next Media’s Apple Daily newspaper. At the TV unit’s much ballyhooed launch, Lai pledged to invest heavily to build a “world class, high-quality digital video and sound platform.”
The group’s television unit and an affiliated company will lay off 500 employees as part of the sale to Lien Tai-sheng, owner of Taiwan’s Era Television, according to Apple. The profit-making Apple Daily and a weekly magazine will not be affected.
Apple editor-in-chief Ma Wei-min blamed the TV business’ heavy losses on Taiwan’s “complicated” political and commercial environment, noting Lai has run into strong opposition because of his “consistently uncompromising anti-Beijing stance.”
It was also reportedly blocked from being picked up by cable TV networks, restricting its advertising revenue.
Taiwan’s freewheeling democracy protects freedom of speech, but many businesses have distinctive pro- or anti-China positions. Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949, but trade across the 160-kilometer- (100-mile-) wide Taiwan Strait has boomed amid warming relations in recent years, raising the commercial stakes for media companies on this island of 23 million people.
Like the Next Media group’s newspaper and its weekly magazine, Next TV is best known for its coverage of scantily clad starlets, its paparazzi-generated entertainment news, and its racy reports of corruption and scandals among politicians and celebrities.
Next TV first attracted international attention with its computer-enhanced animated news featurettes, a Lai brainchild that was introduced in 2009. The clips offer fanciful interpretations of cutting edge news events, and made arguably their biggest splash in November 2009, when one depicting golf superstar Tiger Woods arguing with his wife over an extramarital affair went viral on the Internet.
But the company was encountering difficulties at home, held back by its lack of a broadcasting license for its news channel, which was only granted in July 2011, after Lai promised regulators he would avoid overly sensational animated reports portraying sex and violence. That limited its broadcasts to entertainment, sports, and movies, significantly crimping profits.
Also hurting it was its failure to be picked up by a cable TV channel, the conventional way of attracting advertising revenue in Taiwan.
Lai launched the Apple Daily and Next Magazine in Taiwan in 2001. Their successful operations have put pressure on Taiwan’s traditional, more conservative news media, which look pale and uninspired compared to Lai’s glitzy stable of products.
More Related Stories
- J.J. Abrams reveals deleted shower scene with Benedict Cumberbatch
- Is the anti-gay backlash on?
- Paul McCartney backs Pussy Riot
- Cannes: Ryan Gosling's new movie draws the boo-birds
- Radio host tweets rape joke, blames journalists for reporting on it
- Juror responds to Joe Francis' insults with thoughtful email
- New track from the Lonely Island features Solange Knowles, semicolons
- Amazon introduces fan fiction publishing platform
- Naomi Watts, "Argo," "Wonderstone" among bizarre Teen Choice Awards nominees
- Imprisoned Pussy Riot member declares hunger strike
- The camp-free "Behind the Candelabra"
- Justin Bieber will destroy you if you live-tweet his parties
- Marc Maron on Twitter feud with Michael Ian Black: "We have an understanding"
- "Girls Gone Wild" creator Joe Francis to jury: "You should be euthanized"
- Ai Weiwei releases heavy metal music video
- Actually, Beyoncé is a feminist
- Marc Maron and Michael Ian Black's epic Twitter battle
- Cannes: Directing 101 with James Franco
- Welcome to the jungle: The definitive oral history of '80s metal
- Burt Bacharach opens up on daughter's suicide
- Steven Spielberg to produce "Halo" television series
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11