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US TV serials to be under review

2014-12-25 14:33 China Daily Web Editor: Si Huan

Enhanced government scrutiny of overseas TV programs could delay their release in China, but industry insiders are embracing the new policy.

Starting next year, US TV serials are likely to run on Chinese video websites at least six months later than their premieres in the US, due to the time-consuming process of content examination, local media report. Chinese video websites used to examine the content by themselves, but the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television will reportedly ask to review whole seasons of TV serials in 2015 with ready-made Chinese subtitles before they can run on a video website. The number of foreign TV series to be licensed in 2015 is also likely to be restricted to no more than 30 percent of content.

Southern Metropolis Daily recently quoted sources from the administration as denying the six-month delay, yet confirming that content of foreign TV serials will be examined before being shown in China.

Local video websites have remained discreet in expressing their views toward the new policy. A spokesman with iQiyi.com tells China Daily on condition of anonymity that they believe the policy is beneficial to the industry, and the website will continue license overseas programs accordingly.

Earlier this month, Chinese online giant Tencent Video announced a deal with HBO to exclusively stream about 10 of the network's TV productions starting next year. The playlist includes TV serials like Game of Thrones and True Detective, which haven't been legally shown in China.

Sun Zhonghuai, vice-president of Tencent Holdings, believes the policy is positive.

"Before this policy, video websites were acting in a gray area. There was never a rule saying that we can do this (licensing and streaming foreign shows). This is the first time that we gained a legal identity," he says.

Du Zezhuang, co-founder and analyst with TV industry consultancy Ze Media, suggests that the purpose of the policy is not to restrict US TV serials but rather to improve market order.

New regulations will encourage video websites to refine their overseas purchase plans by taking into consideration more detailed factors, such as a balance in the types and nationalities of TV serials and the needs of audiences, iQiyi's vice-president Wang Zhaonan tells Southern Metropolis Daily.

"Video websites will act more rationally in licensing overseas content. The prices will likely drop. And more attention will be paid to the quality," Sun says.

One major concern is the potential delay in streaming the shows, which could cause audiences to look for pirated versions on illegal websites. The authorities have worked hard to shut down a number of such websites and translated subtitle provider Shooter.cn.

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