The mood on the Mid-Levels Escalator this morning is bleary-eyed, as Hong Kong’s dynamic, enterprising and clean-living middle class recounts the misery of another sleep-starved night. PCCW is back in the neighbourhood, kicking down doors uninvited well after most residents’ 10pm bedtime and refusing to go away until they sign up for an upgraded broadband-phone package complete with an eye2 telephone.
This device tells you the time, the temperature and the humidity; it has a camera so you can spy on the Filipino elves while you are in the office; it can be carried into the kitchen to read out recipes in four languages; you can plug a thumbdrive in to run photos, video and music; it carries lead stories from Apple Daily and RTHK; you can use it to book tickets, check food and stock prices, watch Chinese opera, teach kids English and Putonghua, get horse-racing and astrological advice and “sing along with Disney friends.” Having had one for two days, I can confirm that – despite the absence of a handset or keypad – you can even make and receive calls on it.
But tycoon-scion Richard Li is not satisfied with using this sleep-deprivation marketing method just once. The new owner of an eye2 will be happily fluffing up his pillow, downing his last sip of cocoa and easing his Hello Kitty slippers off his tired feet before retiring when, for the second night in a row, there is a knock on the door. This time, the PCCW salesmen are pushing NOW TV, the 9,472-channel cable-by-broadband service. They know you have the connection; they know you are not a subscriber. What they don’t know, as they shove you aside and stomp into your apartment, is…
“I don’t have a television.” Richard’s henchmen look around for the 60-inch flat screen found in every household in Perpetual Opulence Mansions and find none. After some initial bemusement, they recover their pose.
“Yes you do!” they declare, pointing triumphantly at the eye2. After a few jabs at the screen, we are watching TVB Jade. Unlike its predecessor, which displayed video in a little YouTube-type window, this new contraption gives you the full, high-definition works. They refuse to believe that I do not want TV and become almost violently incredulous when I deny any interest in their special soccer package.
The big selling point, it seems, is a new split-screen option where viewers can watch a soccer game with one eye, while simultaneously keeping the other orb glued on the famous Chewing Gum Guy – the man in a suit whose presence at soccer games, strolling around on the sidelines and masticating furiously, plays such an important role in televised coverage of this sport.
“Or,” salesman Ricky tells me, “you can toggle between the two – watch the game for 10 seconds, then switch over whenever you want to watch Chewing Gum Man.” Essentially, Chewing Gum Guy now has his own dedicated channel. Many people, it seems, find watching him more exciting than following the dim but highly paid men in shorts running up and down on the field chasing the ball and touching each other’s private parts when they think no-one is looking.
I resisted the temptation, and eventually eased Ricky and Co out of my home by telling them that the Chans upstairs stay up until 11, so they could still catch them.
Now, as we glide down the escalator, yawning and struggling to stay awake, I find most of my neighbours broke down and signed up. One has already received a bill after his cat, sniffing around the new gizmo, subscribed to a premium Bollywood Movie Channel.
PCCW is up 2.2% at HK$2.30 when the stock market opened this morning.