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BEIJING – China’s online TV fans will soon have nearly as wide an offering as their U.S. equivalents after the Chinese online video site Sohu.com unveiled 20 American TV shows that viewers will be able to watch, including The Last Ship, Rectify and Masters of Sex.
Sohu.com CEO Charles Zhang announced the wide slate of U.S. shows as he launched the late-night talk show Conan at a news conference in Beijing, featuring Chinese-American stand-up comedian Joe Wong and presenter/singer Kelly Cha, who has a successful TV show on Sohu about U.S. TV.
Generally, the online streaming sites have operated with far more freedom to show edgy U.S. material, such as The Walking Dead and House of Cards, than traditional outlets such as TV networks and movie theaters.
Conan, with Chinese subtitles, has racked up more than 3 million hits since its debut.
Earlier this year, Sohu unveiled the classic sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, and it also licenses the reality show Rising Star, House of Cards and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Asked how he thought Conan would go down in China, Zhang said: “From the data, we are not worried. Ellen and Saturday Night Live both got very high viewership, so the foreign talk shows are competitive, and we are actively exploring this kind of market.”
The exclusive shows that Sohu will show include the first seasons of Crossbones, Murder in the First, The Last Ship, Reckless, Extant and Outlander; the second seasons of Rectify, Hemlock Grove and The Bridge; and season three of Longmire and Major Crimes, as well as the most recent season of Falling Skies.
On a non-exclusive licensing basis, Sohu.com will show the ninth season of 24: Live Another Day and will introduce Chinese audiences to the Gothic delights of Penny Dreadful, as well as Night Shift, plus new seasons of Mistresses, Teen Wolf, Witches of East End, Ray Donovan and Masters of Sex.
While U.S. TV shows appear to be given more leeway, there are still occasional crackdowns on content.
In May, The Good Wife, The Big Bang Theory, NCIS and The Practice were ordered off video-streaming websites in China because the popular shows breached regulations on harmful content, according to China’s media watchdog.
The decision caused a huge public outcry after the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television ordered them taken down.
The watchdog gave no explanation for the move, although it came shortly after SAPPRFT said it was planning to increase censorship of foreign content and warned that online companies such as Youku, Tencent and Sohu would have to closely vet content before making it available to stream.
Prior to his show’s official debut in China, Conan O’Brien was already well known to the Chinese Web audience, according to search engine queries. Part of this is down to similarities between Conan and the leading Chinese online comedy show, The Da Peng Show, which O’Brien said had “ripped off” his show, prompting him to do a parody of it.
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