HBO to Launch Documentary Channel in China (Exclusive)

Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images
HBO boss Richard Plepler

The network will air documentaries made by China Central Television and others around the world.

HONG KONG – Time Warner's HBO will launch a documentary channel in China and Southeast Asia to show documentaries made by China Central Television (CCTV) and others around the world.

The general manager of China Radio, Film & Television Programs Exchanging Center, Ma Runsheng, told The Hollywood Reporter about the new network on Tuesday.

The CEPC is the international marketing agency of CCTV's copyrighted programs. Negotiations between CPEC and HBO about the rights of the documentary programs have been going on for a year.

PHOTOS: 10 International TV Shows to Binge-Watch This Holiday Season

HBO has been available in China since 1994, and although it is restricted, like CNN and BBC, to hotels and diplomatic compounds, it has a loyal following.

The move also reflects China's growing interest in documentaries, as directors work out ways to skirt censorship hurdles by focusing on historical shows and nature documentaries. BBC Worldwide, for example, has made significant inroads into China, as has Discovery Communications' Discovery Channel.

For the time being, the market for Chinese TV programs is in Asia, said Ma, and the standard has to improve if TV shows are going to travel to places like the U.S.

While most English-language networks in the U.S. are less inclined to buy Chinese programs, PBS is interested in CCTV documentaries such as A Bite of China, a program with blockbuster ratings in China, said Ma. "We've been working on the issues of format, personnel and budgets," he said.

An exact date for the launch of the new channel is not yet set.