China Reportedly Close to Launching Online Quota for Foreign Shows

Bob Newhart The Big Bang Theory - H 2014

Bob Newhart The Big Bang Theory - H 2014

Video sites must now register foreign content, with a 30 percent cap expected to be introduced

China will limit foreign TV shows available on online video sites in the country to 30 percent of total content on each site, the Financial Times reported.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News reported on Friday that the country has told streaming sites to register foreign films and TV shows by the end of March and get approval to show them. Unregistered content can't be offered starting April 1, it said. 

China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) has been known to be mulling a streaming TV quota system similar to the one it uses for imported movies. It has posted a directive on the registration requirement of foreign content on video sites, Bloomberg said.

The quota, meanwhile, hasn't been announced, but is expected to be implemented within days, the FT reported, citing two Internet industry representatives. It wasn't immediately clear if the 30-percent figure would apply to the number of shows, the number of episodes or the amount of hours offered or the amount of content streamed by users of each site.

Hollywood has kept a close eye on how China restricts the availability of shows on streaming sites. In April, China banned four Hollywood shows from video websites —The Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife, NCIS and The Practice

Chinese officials are believed to have been concerned with the content of some foreign shows and the possible cultural influence they could have. In April. In July, SARFT threatened to revoke the licenses of seven Internet-TV companies if the content streamed on their networks breached the country's strict censorship laws. 

SARFT requested that they look for approval for all foreign TV shows they plan to show on their networks. Failure to do so would lead to those foreign shows and movies being removed within seven days. Failure to comply with the removal requests would lead to those companies losing their licenses.

Internet TV has become popular in China, particularly among the younger generation, with set-top boxes allowing viewers to stream and download a vast array of content.

The new quota is expected not only to have an effect on Hollywood companies making their shows available in China, but also on such video site operators as Youku Tudou, Sohu and Tencent, which have seen rapid usage growth.

The FT cited an unnamed source at one such company as saying that foreign shows made up more than 30 percent of the site's content when using the number of episodes offered as the basis for calculation.

Some are expected to be affected more than others. Youku Tudou told the FT that domestic shows are most popular on its site, but Sohu is known for offering many U.S. shows. Recent reports suggested that 20 percent of Sohu's traffic was driven by Hollywood fare.

Chinese sites have recently sought to secure more exclusive license deals for U.S. TV shows due to their popularity. 

Twitter: @georgszalai