China Introduces TV Broadcast Rule to Prevent Channels From All Airing the Same Show

"The worst for Chinese audiences was when 18 stations broadcast the same TV drama at once," said one local media expert of the current situation.

China's state TV regulator announced on Tuesday that it will soon ban broadcasters from airing the same TV series on more than two channels during prime time. The media watchdog said the move is intended to boost competition and viewing options for consumers.

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) also revealed a new rule limiting each TV series to air no more than two episodes per day during peak viewing hours. The new regulations will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

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Currently, TV series in China tend to broadcast exclusively on one channel, or on several satellite channels simultaneously. The prior rule had limited each series to being broadcast on no more than four channels at the same time, but industry watchers say that the limit was often exceeded for especially popular shows.

"The worst for Chinese audiences was when 18 stations broadcast the same TV drama at once," said Lu Di, a professor at the School of Journalism and Communication of Peking University to Chinese daily The Global Times. "The situation is gradually improving," he added.

Li Jingsheng, a senior official at SAPPRFT, previously revealed that China produced 15,000 TV episodes in 2013, but many of the series went unaired, due to a pattern of multiple channels all broadcasting the same popular shows.

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The new rules are expected to benefit TV series producers, as smaller companies can expect new opportunities for broadcast, while hit shows will likely be the subject of bidding wars. But satellite channels with smaller budgets will probably find it difficult to obtain exclusive rights to top content.

The Shanghai Daily also speculated that China's booming Internet TV sector could be the unexpected beneficiaries of the new rules, given that there are no limits on broadcasts online.

Zhu Xiangyang, chief content officer for streaming video giant Youku Tudou, said that video sites' value to consumers will be further amplified, as viewers can still enjoy all the TV series they like most, free from constraints.