China: New Approval Process Could Delay Release of Foreign TV Shows by up to 6 Months

China Quota Wheel Illustration 2014

Fears that delays on streaming such shows as 'Game of Thrones' and 'The Newsroom' could lead to increased piracy

Foreign TV dramas could face a delay of up to six months before introduction to the booming Chinese online market because of new censorship rules, local media reported, opening a window for piracy.

Restrictions imposed by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), mean that online sites like Youku Tudou, Baidu's iQIYI,, Tencent and others who want to screen shows like Game of Thrones, The Newsroom and Band of Brothers in China could face some problems.

In September, China's broadcasting regulator said it must approve all foreign TV shows before they can be posted on video sites and that sites must pull unapproved shows by early next year.

Read more China Watchdog Says TV Censorship Rules Should Apply Online Too

At a film and TV conference earlier this month in Hangzhou, delegates said they were worried about what this would mean for the synchronization of U.S. and Chinese broadcasts of shows with worries that China could be out of sync by up to six months, according to the Beijing Evening News.

Zhang Yurui of iQIYI's copyright management center said the biggest worry was that if the U.S. version was out for a long time before the Chinese showing, there was opportunity for pirates to step in and flood the market.

Ding Heng of Youku agreed, although Ding and Ma Ke from Sohu said they would try and coordinate with the government to minimize the impact.

They said that the numbers who watch foreign sites were limited — mostly educated and wealthy within an interest in foreign matters. The main problem is going to be domestic TV dramas or shows from Korea.