China restricts content and number of overseas TV

Updated: 2014-09-11 07:38

By Han Bingbin(China Daily)

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China restricts content and number of overseas TV

American TV shows are one of the major attractions on China's video websites. Photo provided to China Daily

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Each February, shortlisted programs will be posted on an online platform. After video websites actually license a program, they still have to register the program information on the platform for a recheck. Each program will then be issued a serial number, which must be screened before a show starts.

Experts worry that these time-consuming processes mean, at a minimum, that foreign programs will no longer be almost simulcast in China and their original countries. Previously a show could reach Chinese audiences as soon as several hours after their debut on original channels, equipped with Chinese subtitles.

The new policy also requires the number of overseas programs be no more than 30 percent of a website's total content. This, however, is not expected to have much impact, IT portal's CEO Zhang Yanxiang tells reporters, as overseas content currently doesn't account for such a significant share of the programming.

Even so, with more stimulating subjects, better production and faster narrative rhythm, foreign shows-especially TV series from the United States-have helped China's major video websites attract an audience that includes well-educated and highly paid young elites.

Many sites, therefore, still treat licensing overseas content as a key strategy. Leading video site Sohu, for example, which had exclusively licensed the popular House of Cards and The Big Bang Theory, reportedly planned earlier this year to spend more money securing the rights to screen 100 American TV series from this coming fall.

But the strict standards of official examination means the once flourishing diversity of American TV series on Chinese video websites, including political dramas, crime shows and supernatural stories, will face a setback. This is expected to cause the loss of a certain audience segment, says IT portal's editor-in-chief Wu Chunyong, which will affect the websites' business patterns.

"Some advertisements could be gone. Their attempts to foster new audiences become in vain," he says.

Bao Ran of eMovie told Sina Entertainment that video sites will have to compete harder for the good shows-and make sure they don't spend money on shows that can't pass official examination.

While the policy has upset many viewers and websites, it has created an opportunity for domestic productions. Wu says the policy itself is a clear sign of government support for the local TV industry.

It's not just that more domestic shows will find a broadcasting outlet. Video websites have a lot of data that clarify audiences' preferences. Wu says the sites can use this advantage in producing their own shows, by working with domestic or even foreign companies to make up for the possible losses caused by the limits on overseas content.

"The policy could drive all video websites back to the same starting line. Whosoever transforms first will find the way out earlier," he says.