'Big Bang Theory' to Be First U.S. Series to Stream on Chinese Web Sites Under New Rules

The Big Bang Theory The Misinterpretation Agitation Still - H 2014
Michael Ansell/WBEI

The Big Bang Theory The Misinterpretation Agitation Still - H 2014

Since April 1, China's regulator has required foreign TV dramas to present full seasons to the country's media regulator before they can be shown.

The Big Bang Theory will become the first U.S. TV show to stream on Chinese web sites under new rules introduced last year requiring tougher reviews and censorship of overseas content.

China's top regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), will allow the eighth season of the sitcom to screen on video site tv.sohu.com starting on July 22, the Global Times newspaper reported.

The Big Bang Theory and three other TV shows  NCIS, The Good Wife and The Practice  were taken down in April 2014, with SAPPRFT saying the content had "violated regulations on having content which hurts the nation’s honor and interests and encourages teenagers to break laws and spread violence, eroticism, gambling and terrorism."

Before it was taken down, Big Bang Theory was racking up 1.3 billion hits on Sohu. The first seven seasons remain prohibited from being shown in China.

News of the ban prompted Chuck Lorre, creator of the show, to file a sarcastic post in one of his signature "vanity cards," which follow the broadcast of the show.

China's online video market is expected to nearly triple to $14.5 billion by 2018, and it's an attractive market. However, since April 1, SAPPRFT has required foreign TV dramas to present full seasons — with subtitles — for censorship before they can be shown.

Content deemed violent or pornographic will be deleted. In addition, online video sites may act only as content providers and cannot set up dedicated content zones or channels on Internet TV platforms.

Previously, sites like Youku Tudou, Baidu's iQIYI, Sohu.com, Tencent and others, were largely self-censoring, but the government is currently engaged in a campaign cracking down on pornography, violence or anything that might challenge the authority of the ruling Communist Party.

The first foreign show to bow under the new regulations will be the Korean romantic comedy Hyde, Jekyll and Me, which will air on Youku Tudou on Thursday.